The Validity of Conceptualizing Teaching as a Craft

 Barrie R.C. Barrell
 Fall 1993

 The appearance of Schön's work in 1983 marked a turning point for investigations into classroom practice.  Increasingly after that year, educational  researchers started to move away from the process-product model of  instruction and  began  to focus  their attention more on the qualitative aspects of classroom dynamics.  Thus, quantitative analysis gave up ground to qualitative inquiry (Polkinghorne 1988; Mishler 1986; Eisner 1985), behavioristic studies gave ground to reflective practice (Oberg and Artz 1992; Erickson and Riecken 1990; Grimmett and MacKinnon 1990), and empirical studies were superseded by story and anecdote (Langeveld 1989), narrative inquiry (Clandinin and Connelly 1991; Greene 1987), and contemplative practice (Drake and Miller 1991; Miller, in press).  Investigators of classroom teaching began lo look beyond the surface significance of what had been observed in overt classroom actions and behaviours, and tried to focus more on the effects of what teachers were doing both to themselves and their students.  One's relationship to the inner structures of the work, to classroom life, has become the subject of inquiry.  Thus, inquiry has moved away from the rational-technocratic paradigm where teaching was conceptualised as an applied science.  Instead, researchers have Conceptualising teaching more as a 'work in progress' where the improvisational, intersubjective, and situational dimensions of  teaching children in classrooms are to be articulated and illuminated through intuitive knowledge and a more reflective pedagogy.

 The past decade has seen educational researchers, guided by such qualitative works as Polanyi's (1969) inquiries into tacit knowledge, Schön's (1987) knowing-in-action epistemology, and the traditions of hermeneutic and phenomenological writings (van Manen (1990), focus their attention on the 'performance-in-action' qualities of classroom teaching.  By putting aside quantitative analysis and technical conceptions of teaching, researchers are now moving toward conceptions that see practice more as a calling (Götz 1988), a form of coaching (Sizer 1984) or acting (Rosenshine and Furst 1979), a craft (Tom 1984; Cohen 1977) or possibly a form of artistic expression (Barrell 1991; Eisner 1979).  Alan Tom (1984) has gone as far as to try to synthesise the moral component of teaching with his view of craft.  Hence, in Teaching as a Moral Craft, Tom's thesis is to have teachers viewed as 'moral craftsman'.

 What is at steal with any of these conceptions is the directional thrust they can give to current and future thought on teacher education.  When in the late 1960's, teaching was conceptualised as having a scientific base, behaviourism, in one form or another, came to dominate research into teaching.  Thousands of studies broke teaching up into its constituent parts, examined and probed each component, drew conclusions and made recommendations based on the gathered data.  The notion that teaching was an applied science flourished.  It came to dominate curriculum studies and gave direction and impetus as to how and what administrators would evaluate in a teacher's work.  Little tolerance or attention was shown for the ambiguities and indeterminateness of being; rather, overt behaviours were measured and valued.  However, in 1989, Gage (1989), echoing what many had concluded about three decades of scientifically based research, said that the research had
"at best [been] inconclusive, [and] at worst barren ... inadequate to tell us anything secure and important about how teachers should proceed in the classroom" (p. 135).  By conceptualising teaching as an applied science, a number of researchers fell into the trap of framing pedagogic concerns as if all aspects of teaching had a scientific base or as if all educational concerns could be solved by the application of scientific principles or methodologies.

 Theorists are now looking for new conceptions of teaching that will attempt to explain the nuances and the subtleties that sustain practice and its inherent lore.  It is important that we do not get trapped into making the same mistakes as in the past by claiming that teaching is a calling or is a craft or is an art, a profession, a reflective practice.  Such statements soon break down or end with the development of lists of characteristics that are then used to make a claim for status in one form or another.  The craft metaphor, as a model for building new teacher education programmes is being studied by policy makers (FulIan, Connelly, Heller, Watson and Scane 1987; Pratte and Rury 1991).  For instance, Fullan (1987) has gone as far as to suggest a seven-year apprenticeship programme with coordinated steps leading to "master" teacher status.  The time frame of the apprenticeship and the language used in the proposed programme harkens back to medieval European guides and their craft requirements.  The underlying educational philosophy of such craft notions imply conceptions of training and skill acquisition.  They include ideas of production and a belief that teaching skills can be predetermined.  Teachers are seen as executors or deliverers of codified effective teaching principles.  What emerges from all this is a conception of teaching that mediates and controls the distribution of that knowledge.  Notions of craft further a system that sets the parameters for performance and controls the criteria for judging competence.  The techniques for getting a class up and running are quite different from those abilities that have as their aim such abstract developments as intellectual curiosity, exactness, the creation of unobtrusive elegance, intellectual honesty, a sensibility for nuance or vision.  However, isn't there much about teaching that is a craft?  There are, after all, a variety of general day-to-day skills that novices need to acquire if they are going to be successful classroom  practitioners.

 Key to any qualitative research, it seems, are the metaphors used to come to an understanding of the inner dynamics of the praxis.  If teaching is no longer conceptualised as an applied science and is on its way to becoming visualised as a craft or possibly an art, then it is most important that we stop and investigate the metaphors that are used to help frame qualitative epistemological concerns.  Thus the intention of this paper is to investigate the craft metaphor of teaching and the ideas of those who base their understanding and their own concerns and methodology upon it.

 This is by no means the first attempt to put this metaphor to rest.  There are those like Broudy (1956) and Schaefer (1968) who argue that in order to gain professional status, teaching must dissociate itself from the concepts and theories of craft.  However, their arguments avoid a direct examination of the craft metaphor.  What first needs to be examined is the appropriateness of the craft metaphor.  If it is to be successfully challenged, one needs to try to pinpoint precisely where the metaphor breaks down.  All metaphors have us searching for analogies so that we may better understand the significant parallels and similarities within a particular discourse.  If the craft metaphor breaks down quickly, or is found to be illogical, then it needs to be discarded and a more suitable one found.  Of course, if teaching is found to be a craft, then we will need to ask precisely what kind of craft it is.

 To examine the craft metaphor, Collingwood's (1958) classic definition of craft will be examined, a definition of which Vernon Howard (1982) has said that "though by no means the first word, [it] has more or less stood as the last since 1938-which is to say that there have been many convincing objections to Collingwood's theory of art though none to his theory of craft" (p. 9).  This will solidify a conceptual base from which to work.  Further, Collingwood's definition is traditional enough to confront those who envision a European style craft apprenticeship system as a way of 'training' future teachers; it is also clear enough to balance arguments that see teaching as a calculable binary system with a foundation resting upon a positivistic epistemology whose aims are the development of observable teaching skills-skills that are assumed to be related to learning.  Next, a brief explanation of Collingwood's definition of art will be discussed and applied to craft.  That done, the definitions of craft and art will be applied to teaching so that we may pinpoint where the craft metaphor does and does not fit.  But before beginning this examination, a brief discussion of how Collingwood and Howard use the term is in order.

 Collingwood and Howard have written extensively about the locus of craft in art.  Both authorities have reached diametrically opposed positions on whether to include craft within the purview of art.  While Collingwood has insisted on a crisp and clean separation of craft from art, Howard's (1991; 1982) work has focused on reinstating "the inestimable importance of craft in art" (1982, p. 189).  For Howard there exists a middle ground in which art and craft can blend together.  His conception of craft is understood to mean the skills one needs to produce artistic works or to enhance creative endeavours.  Howard does not see these skills as prescriptive.  Rather, it is the "better way" of doing something; it is the discovery of the "right response" for the artist's, artisan's or athlete's deft endeavours.

 Collingwood uses the word as it would apply in the British sense, to include the learning of a skilled occupation or trade.  Thus 'craftsmen' are understood to be 'tradesmen' or skilled 'workmen.' Further, Collingwood's definition is traditional enough to confront those who envision a European style craft apprenticeship system as a way of 'training' future teachers.  It is important to understand that craft, in a Collingwoodian sense, is referring to the acquisition of particular skills and techniques that enable each craftsperson to perform his or her job with precision and up to standard.

 Howard, on the other hand, is not looking for the meaning of craft based on deep cultural understandings of the word or in its "fixed sufficient conditions," but is in search of a philosophy of craft inherent in a "set of flexible symptoms" (1982, p. 11).  He includes in his definition of craft the products of those involved in "trained capacities," like singers and actors, those who cause "mental or physical' effects, like teachers, doctors and nurses, and those people making or manufacturing handicrafts (1982, p. 5).

 By applying both Collingwood's and Howard's differing conceptions of Graft to the practice and very necessary daily routines of teaching, a clearer and more precise understanding of one part of the teacher's practice will be brought to light.

Outline of Collingwood's Definition of Craft

 Collingwood (1958), in The Principles of Art, assures us that "we all know... that art is not craft:  and all I wish to do is to remind the reader of the familiar differences which separate the two" (p. 9).  For the purposes of clarity, a brief outline of Collingwood's definition of craft is in order.  Six basic characteristics of craft are enumerated.

 First, a distinction is drawn between means and ends.  Crafts always separate the means from the ends.  Finished products or ends stand alone.  The means-fuel, machines, or tools-are not part of the finished product for crafts; once a cabinet is built, installed, and polished, the craftsperson packs up his or her plane, level, and square edge and proceeds to the next task.

 Second, Collingwood draws a distinction between the planning and execution of crafts.  Craftspersons have a preconceived notion of what they are making throughout the construction process.  In fact, they plan for an exact and specific result to occur.  Therefore, precise foreknowledge is essential in the planning and execution of crafts.

 Third, there is a reversal of the relationship of means and ends.  The ends are thought out first, and then the means are planned and executed.  The wheelwright measures the size of a matching wheel he or she is about to make, and then plans its construction.

 Fourth, Collingwood asserts that "a craft is always exercised upon something, and aims at the transformation of this into something different" (p. 16).  Materials, such as the mason's bricks or the cobbler's leather, are found ready made by craftspeople, and transformed into finished products.

 Fifth, Collingwood distinguishes between form and matter.  The matter remains the same both in its raw state and in the derivative state; it is only the form that the craftsperson has changed.  The mason, by erecting the bricks into a chimney, does not transform the material of the craft, but instead creates a new form out of the material.

 Finally, crafts have a hierarchical relationship.  Each craft supplies another with what it needs; "the raw material of one craft is the finished product of another" (p. 16).  This hierarchical relationship covers three areas: the raw materials, the means, and the parts.  Collingwood explains this hierarchical relationship as follows:

 Thus the silviculturist propagates trees and looks after them as they grow, in order to provide raw materials for the felling-men who transform them into logs; these are raw materials for the sawmill that transforms them into plank; and these, after a further process of selection and seasoning, become raw materials for the joiner (p. 16-17).

 Thus included in Collingwood's understanding of crafts are the people who perform minor as well as more difficult or complex tasks.  Collingwood concludes his discussion of crafts by saying that "where most of [these six characteristics] are absent from a certain activity that activity is not a craft, and, if it is called by that name, is so called either by mistake or in a vague and inaccurate way" (p. 17).

 There are other criteria that could be included in the definition, including the notion that crafts usually act upon objects in a very technical way rather than by playing upon the emotions and feelings of people or "that crafts work within the sphere of the familiar whereas art strives for creativity" (Martland 1974, p. 233-234) or, according to the California potter, Margaret Waidenhaim, that craftspeople as experiment "inside experiment whatever it is that limits the possibilities of use and function" (Quoted by Fethe, 1977).  However, Collingwood's enumeration is true to the essence of craft and would be accepted by most craftspeople as reasonable and fair.

 Before applying this definition to teaching, it should be agreed that, to be true not only to the definition but to Collingwood, teaching does not have to fit precisely all six criteria, but only a majority of these to be deemed a craft. (Four is the majority that we might look for while three or less would cause serious doubt about an acceptable craft relationship).  Because there are always some similarities when one uses metaphors to help explain a particular view, it is important that one focus on how productive the craft metaphor is for an examination and exploration of teaching.  Moreover, it is crucial to extract the conceptual dimensions of the metaphor for review and analysis, if indeed, it fits.  If we do find that teaching is a craft, we must then examine just how complex a craft it is.  Further, we would have to investigate the parameters and responsibilities of this complex craft.

Collingwood's Distinction Between Art and Craft

 Collingwood insists on a crisp separation of art and craft.  To him, art is ideas interpreted by the intellect through imaginary experiences.  Thus, art transmits to the intelligent viewer, listener, or reader what the creator of the work imagined.  For example, Collingwood explains what happens after a composer has thought up an imaginary tune:

 Next, he [the composer] may arrange for the tune to be played before an audience.  Now there comes into existence a real tune, a collection of noises.  But which of these two things is the work of art?  Which of them is the music?  The answer is implied in what we have said:  the music, the work of art, is not the collection of noises, it is the tune in the composer's head.  The noises made by the performers, and heard by the audience are not the music at all; they are only means by which the audience can reconstruct for themselves the imaginary tune that existed in the composer's head (p. 139).

This is not to deny that one does get sensual pleasure out of hearing music, looking at paintings, or reading poetry, but for Collingwood, one must go beyond the sensual into the world of imagination.  To Collingwood then, art is a conscious act to express ideas and it is incumbent upon the audience to make an effort to understand the artist's imagination.  "Works of art are only means to an end; the end is this total imaginative experience which they enable us to enjoy" (p. 148).  Viewers combine their imaginative powers with those the artist purposely placed within a poem or painting to cause activity.

 To dissociate art from craft, Collingwood applies his definition of craft to art.  The first characteristic of craft is its distinction between means and ends.  With any craft there is the sequence of events that is carried out to achieve particular ends.  The carpenter chooses a piece of wood to make a molding, sharpens his saw, makes a cut, sands the edges, and nails the molding in place.  The poet, on the other hand, who composes a short poem in his head has, according to Collingwood, no tools in the craft sense.  And even if the poet were to "get paper and pen, fill the pen, sit down and square his elbows," these actions would be considered preparations for writing and not composing (p. 20).  Hence, Collingwood insists on a separation of the instruments and tools required for creating and the creation itself.

 The second characteristic of craft is the distinction between the planning and the execution of the plan.  The painter who sets out to paint a city scape may begin only to clear the canvas of paint and to start again on a new tack.  Eventually, after making changes in the application of the paint, its tone and its colour, the painting is completed.  Collingwood would argue that the artist has a general plan to paint a city scape, but just how it will turn out evolves as the artist works and creates on the canvas.  Collingwood would further argue that if the artist, while painting the city scape, decided instead to paint the nearby park, because of the time of year and the play of light on the ice and snow, he would be no less an artist for doing so.  The fact remains that, though he is not executing a specific plan, this does not negate his artistry.  Works of art are no less works of art because they are not specifically elucidated and planned in advance.

 When applying the craft's requirement for planning and execution to art, Collingwood says, if "neither means and ends nor planning and execution, can be distinguished in art proper, there obviously can be no reversal of the order as between means and ends, planning and execution respectively" (p. 22).

 Art and craft differ on the next point, that of the distinction between raw materials and finished products.  Collingwood states that for the poet the raw materials are perhaps words, but then asks, "what words?" "A Smith makes a horseshoe not out of all the iron there is, but out of a certain piece of iron, cut off a certain bar that he keeps in the corner of the smithy" (p. 23).  For the poet, these words or sounds could not be said to reside in the poet's mind as a whole; rather, they needed to be reshuffled and placed in a specific order.  It is the emotions and feelings that are the raw materials with which the artist can play, manipulate, and create.  As Collingwood says:

 ... perhaps there is a raw material of another kind:  a feeling or emotion, for example which is present to the poet's mind at the commencement of his labour, and which that labour converts into a poem. ...But this conversion is a very different kind of thing from the conversion of iron into horseshoes.  If the two kinds of conversion were the same, a blacksmith could make horseshoes out of his desire to pay the rent.  The something more, beyond that want, which he must have in order to make horseshoes out of it, is the iron which is their raw material.  In the poet's case that something 'more does' not exist (p. 24).

 Turning to the next part of the definition, that of the distinction of form and matter, Collingwood says that art does not have the same form as craft.  The form in art is its "rhythm, pattern, Organisation, design, or structure," but these things were not there prior to the poet's or artist's work (p. 24).  They did not exist ready to be transformed into a finished product like the iron awaits the blacksmith:

 Something was no doubt there before the poem came into being; there was, for example, a confused excitement in the poet's mind; but, as we have seen, this was not the raw material of the poem.  There was, no doubt, the impulse to write; but this impulse was not the form of the unwritten poem.  And when the poem is written, there is nothing in it of which we can say, 'this is a matter which might have taken on a different form', or 'this is a form which might have been realised in a different matter' (p. 24).
 Finally, Collingwood argues that there is nothing within art which resembles the hierarchy of crafts with "each dictating ends to the one below it, and providing either means or raw materials or parts to the one above" (p. 25).  If various arts are combined, Collingwood argues, they do not form a hierarchy, but rather collaborate with each playing a part in the making of something new. 

 With this very tight formulation of craft in mind, it is time to apply it to teaching.  The aim here is to examine teaching critically, in a Collingwoodian sense, to be clear on just how craft notions of teaching might fit practice.

Applying the Definition of Craft to Teaching


 Turning to the first part of Collingwood's definition, we need to know if there is a distinction between the means and ends in teaching.  To begin, the means often used in teaching, namely the introduction and discussion of new concepts and ideas, cannot be equated to the tools, machines, or fuels used in the production of items by crafts.  There is a tight conceptual connection between means and ends in instruction.  The student takes away from the lesson memories of the discussion and the ideas that were presented.

 Suppose we wish to teach the student that Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492.  We might begin by asking the pupil to copy this statement into a geography notebook.  We then discuss Columbus, the ocean blue, and the date.  A map and globe could be used to further illustrate and illuminate the lesson.  Attention is drawn to a comparison between early voyages of discovery and more recent space expeditions.  Entranced, the student goes off with this information.  The question then arises: by what means, within the structure of the lesson, did we teach the pupil?  The intention of the lesson was demonstrated by having the student pay attention to the new information, answer questions about the events of 1492, view a map and a globe and analyse modern exploration.  A peek into the teacher's plan book might reveal a desire not only to teach information and facts about Columbus, but also to achieve a whole range of affective domain goals and objectives that could include moral, ethical and social concerns.

 What begins to emerge from this description is a complex set of objectives whose means of attainment shift and change depending on which variables arise in the give and take of the teaching.  Thus, there are different means and ends at work at the same time within any classroom.  (An examination of the classroom from the student's perspective would further add to an already complex situation).  There is observable evidence that teachers are confronting far more complex issues than craftspeople.  Indeed, some of a teacher' are never fully achieved, while others might seem unobtainable at a given time or only partially obtainable with certain students.  Basic academic concepts can be forgotten and have to be retaught.  Thus teachers have changing and fluctuating means and ends within each of their classrooms and with each individual student.

 By contrast, craftspeople have clearly recognised means and ends that are usually achievable within a relatively short period.  What is more, their desired outcomes are predictable, clearly identifiable, and uniform.  The tailor's suit fits, it has the right number of buttons and buttonholes, and the agreed upon cut and hem line.  The deck is in place, it can be reached by the side door, and it has correctly placed steps and hand rails.  The copier now works and prints effectively without jamming paper.

 On another tack, suppose our student forgot what he or she had been taught in the geography lesson, would we be able to say that teaching did not occur, or was not done well?  Scheffler (1966) would answer that this was possible but that there was indeed an intention to teach during a given period of time and it was likely that learning could take place given the teaching environment in which the student was placed.  Furthermore, we would need to test precisely to see just what exactly was learned and what had been forgotten.  But, on the other hand, if a craftsperson did not complete a task or finish a job, we usually know the exact problems we are having and we usually know it immediately because the ailerons fail to respond correctly, the car does not start, or our hands fail to emerge from the sleeves of the newly tailored jacket.

 We must concede then that the concepts and ideas used in teaching cannot be equated to the tools, machines, or fuels used in crafts.  Furthermore, (1) because teachers have a more complex set of objectives that can have short, intermediate, and long-range goals, all of which can fluctuate throughout the year, (2) because these ends contrast sharply to the clearly defined ends of crafts and (3) because final outcomes or achievements are much more evident and visible for craftspeople than they are for teachers, it is evident that teaching does not fit Collingwood's definition of craft on this first point.


 The second part of Collingwood's definition addresses the planning and execution of craft objectives.  Teachers do make plans and do execute them; however, as often can happen, plans are laid aside during a lesson.  Let us say that as our teacher engaged the pupil in the geography lesson, it is quickly discovered that the student has no concept of the shape of the world or of the ocean blue that would come under discussion.  The original lesson plan is then abandoned and the teacher puts away everything except the globe and a Mercator map.  The lesson is then begun on a different tack.  Even if the teacher decided that the pupil was a whiz at geography and determines it is time to catch up on place value in mathematics, the fact remains that if a teacher completely abandons a lesson plan, teaching still continues, but with a different intent.  The teacher knows the direction and the skills needed to proceed whether in geography or mathematics.  With long-range plans in mind, a judgement is made as to what will be more beneficial to the pupil's academic growth.  Similarly, we can say that the teacher who seizes the moment by using the sudden appearance of a rainbow during a spring shower or the honking sounds of arriving Canada geese passing over the school to inspire the class to write a brief story cannot be said to have planned for this particular writing lesson nor can it be said that teaching is not taking place or that this teacher is teaching on a whim.  Thus, teachers can and often do adjust their plans as well as their means to achieve educational goals within their classrooms.  The teacher can change the intent of a lesson because of certain teaching opportunities, classroom rhythms, and intuitive understandings developed from years of experience.

 On the other hand, craftspeople cannot easily abandon their plans and execute something else.  The horse came to be shod; the blacksmith cannot change the plan and make a bit for the bridle.  The car needs a water pump; the mechanic cannot abandon contractual obligations and adjust the valves or install new tires.  Craftspeople contract out their services for specific purposes and particular outcomes.  Both parties have preconceived knowledge of the task to be undertaken and how the finished work or product will look and operate.

 Putting aside students' agenda, classroom teachers have a variety of educational, social, moral, ethical, and behavioural objectives in mind as they teach.  From past experience and encounter with the learning patterns of
students, they know that each of these s will be reached in varying degrees and at various times throughout the school year.  They also realise that shifts in their planning can affect the means as well as the ends in teaching.  Since the outcomes of their teaching must be measured in degrees of accomplishment, results cannot be equated with the strict contractual obligations and agreements inherent in the completion of craft objects.  Therefore, it is difficult to see how teaching can be made to fit the definition of craft on this second point.


 As we have seen, teaching often requires that the projected means and ends of a lesson sometimes are dismissed in favour of more suitable or timely ones.  Furthermore, teachers may readily choose to extend the boundaries of their plans and adjust the means they have at hand.  Conversely, craftspeople are obligated to complete their work within the limits of their plans.  They are also required, because of financial or contractual considerations, to control the quality of their materials.  A craftsperson may see the appearance of an entry way improved by changing the type of wood used in its construction, but cost factors or compliance with architectural demands might restrict this improvement.  In contracted-for crafts, both parties involved in the craft work can agree when the contracted-for task has been completed; the tub and sink have been installed and are seen to be working correctly; the dimmer switch turns and the lights respond accordingly.

 The reading teacher, on the other hand, cannot say when his or her task is completed.  There is always some area of reading skill that can be worked on or improved.  The reading teacher is teaching reading, but also might be placing emphasis on the moral and ethical implications of a particular story or myth being enjoyed by the class.  The athletics teacher may decide to work on the psychological aspects of competition or the need to open up space on the court or playing field.  Because plans can be quickly exchanged and new ideas substituted and executed in teaching, and because the contractual aspects that apply to crafts are not applicable in the same way to teaching, we can say that on this third point, the reversal of the relationship of means and ends, teaching again does not have much in common with craft.


 Collingwood's fourth craft characteristic, that of a craft always acting upon something and transforming it into something different, must now be considered.  Craftspersons use raw materials to complete their aim of producing a finished product.  The raw materials that craftspersons use are distinct and quantifiable.  The glazier knows how much glass or installation material he or she has and when it must be reordered.  The carpenter can see that the supply of wood, glue, sandpaper, and screws will need to be replenished soon and thus makes up an order.  But what are the raw materials used in teaching?  Rainbows, cloud formations, sudden snow storms, current events, Canadian geese?  If so, then, which ones?  Needless to say, the carpenter can point to the wood and the potter to the clay, but what is it that teachers have in the way of raw material?

 The curriculum can be modified or changed, but in no sense can it be requisitioned or reordered because another term is about to start.  Craft materials are hard and fast.  They get depleted and must be replenished.  They are usually replenished by the finished products of other craftspeople.  The ideas and concepts used in teaching generally remain constant.  They might be modified slightly as time passes and innovations are made, but they, by and large, remain the same.  Totally new concepts and ideas can be added to the teacher's repertoire from time to time, but again, these concepts and ideas cannot be equated with the notion of raw materials.  Further, we cannot say that the teacher's aim in using the curriculum is to transform students into completely different people as the bricklayer transforms the bricks and cement into a retaining wall, or the shoemaker the leather into a pair of shoes.  Nor can the words that teachers use to explain and clarify ideas be categorised as raw materials.  If they were, we would then be forced to ask specifically, what words?  Thus the raw materials that are specific to crafts have little in common with the concepts and ideas that are expressed in teaching.


 Next we come to the distinction between form and matter.  Where the craftsperson changes raw materials into something new, he or she does so without changing the basic material itself.  The craftsperson could make a  circular wooden staircase from the materials or build a wooden deck.  In either case, the wood remains wood.  Asked to repeat the construction at another building site, the carpenter or one of his or her colleagues could repeat the process to specifications.  Indeed, successful craftspeople need to be able to consistently build or make uniform products and, in fact, take great pride in their ability to do so. The glazed china bowls and the soup tureen all match; the piano is constructed and tuned to standard; the sailing yacht is built and tuned to official racing specifications.

 Putting aside the question of "materials," a teacher does not approach each class in a uniform way; each class differs because of the individual make-up of the students.  Nor, indeed, can one teacher exactly duplicate the teaching style and efforts of another.  One teacher may get on well with one group of students and another might be in conflict with them.  One style of teaching might be successful with a particular ninth grade class, but not with another.  A successful teaching method with one student might not work with another.  A highly structured and detailed lesson might be appropriate for one instructional group, but produce questionable results with another or frustration with a third.

 If we rotate this form problem slightly, we see that for the teacher who has been teaching a unit on poetry to an English class and then asks the students to try their hand at composing, there can be no way of knowing how each student will explore the subject or what ideas will be expressed.  Nor would one know what emotions or feelings each poem will elicit from the reader.  Whatever is expressed in the students' compositions cannot be predicted, nor will the structure of their writing be uniform.  A student who wrote the same poem each time he was asked to express himself in English class would be judged to have missed the point of the exercise.  Mathematics teachers who presented the same problem repeatedly to their classes would not be commended on their consistency.  Thus, on this fifth point, the craft metaphor helps little in the development of an understanding of teaching.


 Finally, we come to the sixth characteristic of Collingwood's definition of craft, that of the hierarchical interaction of crafts by which the finished products of one craft become the raw materials of another.  There is little in teaching that can be said to fit the craft hierarchy.  Knowledge and understanding are not easily ordered into distinct units that can be recognised and assembled and made ready for the next teacher as would the mason's bricks or the chimney sweeps' rods and brushes.  Curricula vary from place to place and teachers vary from room to room.  There might be a collaboration between members of a class or even between classes, but the notion of students being passed on to other teachers as 'complete finished products' is unacceptable.

 Peters (1966) offers an interesting view on this point.  His account of education does not see an hierarchical relationship between students and teachers.  The teacher has an advantage at the beginning of the teaching process, but then enters a shared experience with the students:

 The cardinal function of the teacher, in the early stages [of teaching], is to get the pupil on the inside of the form of thought or awareness with which (he/she) is concerned.  At a later stage, when the pupil has built into (his/her) mind both the concepts and mode of exploration involved, the difference between teacher and taught is obviously only one of degree.  For both are participating in the shared experience of exploring a common world (p. 52).
 Often there are prerequisites for particular subjects, but they cannot be equated with the hierarchical placement of materials, of means, or of parts that Collingwood demonstrates exist in the crafts.  A diversity of prior experiences can often add to class discussions and help with the inventiveness and insightfulness each lesson provides.  A hierarchical motion of order within the specific disciplines of either the arts or sciences does not exist.  The relationship that biology has to chemistry, chemistry to physics, physics to medicine, or all to one another, does not in any way support the notion of a hierarchy within the sciences; each functions distinctly within its own discipline.  Collaborations often take place between various branches, but these are not done with any sense of hierarchy in mind.

Additional Craft Issues

 Vernon Howard's perceptions about the mechanics of craft knowledge and lore draw attention to the subtleties of classroom actions and shed light on the functioning classroom.  First, there are the skills which evolve out of the experience of working in the profession.  Here, for instance, an elementary teacher might learn when to block in various core subjects to fit the natural rhythm of the instructional day and to meet the peak periods of concentration of younger students; or the high school teacher comes to understand what demands are reasonable and fair to make on advanced history or physics students.  Secondly, there are the craft skills that allow the teacher to empathise with the student's position and to perceive the subject under study from the student's point of view.  Finally, there is the learning of the professional jargon or 'the language of the craft' that allows teachers to communicate quickly and effectively with colleagues about a myriad of topics.  Howard insists that we look both to the common place and to the specifics in teaching.  But importantly, Howard's work allows us to see an aesthetic in a well-constructed and well-taught lesson that covers the prescribed curriculum and possibly ventures beyond it.  He would give recognition to the technically perfect lesson achieved through an imaginative practice of all the complexities of the profession (p. 84-85).  Howard (1991, p. 81) sees in the achievement of a high level of skilled proficiency a rhythmic ease of execution and a sensation of fluency and inward satisfaction.  His work observes the artistry involved in working to maximise efforts, achieve goals, and master course content while at the same time recognising that through increased competence, caused by working within the structure of the practice, an altering of the conceptions of what one is doing and trying to achieve evolves.  His understanding of craft blends the aesthetic and the technical, but it is in no sense prescriptive.

 Finally two additional issues need to be addressed when considering the craft metaphor of teaching.  First, the professional responsibilities of those involved in crafts and teaching need to be discussed.  Second, if craftspeople do not make or manufacture anything unless there is a demand for their items, as Collingwood points out, then is this same element true of teachers and artists?  Third, what is the place of teaching techniques within teaching proper?


 Addressing the first point, those involved in crafts do not have the same responsibilities as those involved in such professions as law, health care, or education.  In general, craftspeople are not expected to overhaul, mend, or fix things that are deemed beyond repair.  Nor are they expected to take on jobs that have little chance of success.  Given the amount of wear, the age, and the difficulty of obtaining parts for a particular piece of old machinery, a craftsperson could well advise a customer or client that repairs are not recommended.  Moreover, a craftsperson might advise that if an attempt was to be made, no guarantee could be given how long the repairs would last.  In another situation a craftsperson might refuse to work on a machine that he or she sees as a 'piece of junk,' feeling its usefulness has long since passed and that this fact should be quite evident even to a layperson.  Conversely, lawyers, nurses, doctors and teachers do have obligations and commitments to their clients, patients, and students, even when future outcomes look bleak.  The announcement by a craftsperson that it is the end of the road for the transmission in a classic automobile or that the demise of a nineteenth century covered bridge is imminent is of a different order from those very human and pressing problems that lawyers, health care professionals, and educators face.  It is the additional responsibility of coping with human emotions and feelings and of trying to offer alternatives to people facing serious personal difficulties that separate out craft responsibilities from the responsibilities of lawyers, health care workers, and educators.


 Turning to the second part of this discussion, we need to address the involvement of craft skills within teaching.  Collingwood calls the specialised skills that an artist has technique (p. 26-29).  He elaborates on this point by saying:

 The artist must have a certain specialised form or skill, which is called technique.  He acquires his skill just as the craftsman, does, partly through personal experience and partly through sharing in the experience of others who thus become his teachers.  The technical skill which he thus acquires does not by itself make him an artist; for a technician is made, but an artist is born ...Great artistic powers may produce fine works of art even though technique is defective; and even the most finished technique will not produce the finest sort of work in their absence; but all the same, no work of art whatever can be produced without some degree of technical skill, and, other things being equal, the better the technic the better  will be the work of art.  The greatest artistic powers, for their due and proper display demand a technique as good in its kind as they are in their own (p. 26).

Thus, according to Collingwood, technique is a prerequisite to and for art.  Thus, by separating out technique from artistic endeavours, Collingwood allows us to think about the 'technique' aspects of crafts and teaching.

 In craft, we can see that a precise knowledge and an ability to use that knowledge is the craft.  "A joiner making a table shows his skill by knowing what materials and what tools he needs to make it, and being able to produce the table exactly as specified" (p. 28).  Shifting our attention to teaching, we can see clearly what are the techniques or precise skills intrinsic to teaching.  Succinctly, those areas that proceed and function alongside the actual teaching act are the techniques of teaching.  They include the required and very necessary skills of classroom management, class material production, general housekeeping abilities, methods and skills of coping with administrative paper work, audio-visual equipment usage, attendance calculations and reports, particular marking strategies, and general student record keeping.  However, though the mastery of these skills is extremely important, it can be said that they are only precursors or addenda to the teaching act itself.  Collingwood's analysis of technique in art and craft allows us to filter out and focus on the main function of teaching, namely, that it is the interaction of the teacher with the students' reasoning powers, imagination, creativity, and classroom efforts that constitute teaching proper.


 If, as agreed at the beginning of this paper, the 'teaching as craft' metaphor must meet a majority of the characteristics of craft to be acceptable, then it is apparent that the use of the term craft as applied to the broad definition of teaching falls far short.  Indeed, it fails to meet satisfactorily any of the six craft criteria laid out by Collingwood.  In addition, evidence has been presented that demonstrates that the responsibilities of teachers, as well as other professionals, are dramatically and significantly different from those of craftspeople.

 When we observe consequential teaching it often defies categorising or clear articulation.  For example, in the following quotation, John Steinbeck (1955) describes one of his grade school teachers.  There is little we can find in the way of an orderly or precise or crafted teaching methodology or style.  However, he is indirectly crediting this teacher with the gift of simply allowing him to become a writer:

 She aroused us to shouting, bookwaving discussions.  She had the noisiest class in the school and she didn't even seem to know it.  We could never stick to the subject, geometry or the chanted recitation of the memorized phyla.  Our speculation ranged the world. (She did not tell but catalyzed a burning desire to know).  She breathed curiosity into us so that we brought in facts or truths shielded in our hands like captured fireflies.

 When she was removed a sadness came over us but the light did not go out.  She left her signature on us, the literature of the teacher who writes on minds.  I have had many teachers who told me soon forgotten facts but only three who created in me a new thing, a new attitude and a new hunger.  I suppose that to a large extent I am the unsigned manuscript of that... teacher.  What deathless power lies in the hands of such a person (p. 7).

 This teacher's precise skills are not at all apparent.  She did, however, give Steinbeck many gifts which he gratefully took and cherished before her removal from the system.  Steinbeck's teacher functioned in a realm that challenged the conventional classroom structure; her lessons were emancipatory, active, political.  Her teaching was not motivated by notions of skill acquisition or by craft lore, but a desire to reorganise the student-teacher relationship.  Students worked in a landscape that brought power to their growing literacy. 


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