Thursday, 15 May 2008

The Atelier Method

I was pleased to hear our Dean mention the master apprentice model yesterday in a meeting (I'd like to thing that he's been reading my blog posts, but I think he's probably too busy). He also mentioned something called the Atelier method, which I'd not heard of. A quick bit of Googling, and I discover that this is an educational model with many similarities to the sorts of things that we have been discussing in relation to the Open Habitat project.

The Atelier is a studio where an artist works with a small number of students to progressively train them to become professional realist painters. They were big in France in the 19th century, apparently, but continue to this day. This system places great emphasis on an instructivist approach, and has much in common with approaches such as intelligent tutoring systems. It is a bottom up approach, with students completing progressively complex tasks in order to master their technique. However, where it rings true with me is in the way that the master painter/tutor individually tailors the programme of study to each individual student. This seems to link with the constructivist goal of maintaining the zone of proximal development. I also like the fact that the independence of the painter/tutor from any institution or central governing body, means that he or she has complete autonomy in their teaching methods, unrestricted by the requirements of external validators.

I think that the framework of the Atelier model is attractive (particularly the emphasis placed on the studio), but the rigidity of the instructivist approach and the over-dominance of the master, perhaps limits the potential for peer learning and discovery based learning.


gem spa said...

i think we need to have a bit of both models too. i think we've probably gone too far down the academic tutorial route. although the master/ apprentice relationship is completely fraught with problems - for the subject we teach, which i don't think is always about originality but about learning through doing and demonstrating good practice, it's not completely inappropriate. it's not simply a craft - we are teaching an attitude and approach to the subject but that can't be taught in the abstract. i think you need the right people to teach though - who are doers AND thinkers, not simply one or the other, tutors who don't simply want mini-me's or who would egotistically take advantage of that relationship. i'm worried that at a time when we espouse more and more individual learning strategies that ironically students are less and less regarded that way by the University (but ho hum, ain't that symptomatic of society at large) and that all we are doing is dressing up that dichotomy in good-looking clothes.

Ian Truelove : Cubist Scarborough said...

Doers and thinkers. Definitely. The balance between the cognitive and the practical is our ultimate aim, I think, but our organised activities often seem to be promote either one or the other, and seldom both equally.
I think that lots of people in the University understand the power of individual learning. We are fortunate that our traditions have always placed great emphasis on this. It's not so easy for subject areas with different teaching traditions to embrace the individual learning strategy, but the interest and desire is there.