the bridge from education to experience

“Apprenticeship is the way we learn most naturally. It characterized learning before there were schools, from learning one’s language to learning how to run an empire.” – Cognitive Apprenticeship: Making Thinking Visible

In the apprenticeship model, novices learn under the tutelage of a master, but for the most part are assisted by journeymen, who are qualified in their trade but not yet masters. The amount of formal education in this model is usually around 10%.

“The journeyman license certifies that the craftsman has met the requirements of time in the field (usually a minimum of 8,000 hours) and time in an approved classroom setting (usually 700 hours).” – Wikipedia

A cursory look at several Canadian trades programs confirm this general ratio of 10% education to 90% field experience.

When looking at the 70:20:10 model (Experience, Exposure, Education) the 10% formal education component is easy to understand, as is the 70% experience component. Less obvious is what makes up the 20% exposure component. Given the dominance of knowledge work in the modern workplace, the cognitive apprenticeship model may provide some insight. It includes six methods:

  1. Modeling
  2. Coaching
  3. Scaffolding
  4. Articulation
  5. Reflection
  6. Exploration

While cognitive apprenticeship was originally designed for teachers working with students in a formal setting, it can be used in the workplace as well. In organizations where experts may be significantly more advanced in their skills than novices, there is a role for a knowledge journeyman. This person’s role would be to provide the six components of cognitive apprenticeship, and be a bridge between the experts and novices. Too often experts forget how they learned the basics and find it difficult to coach novices. Novices need the support of sense-makers as companions on their journey to mastery.

In many organizations formal instruction is provided for basic skills or compliance training. But the path to expertise is not made clear. Appointing journeymen to provide the 20% exposure is a way to recognize the importance of learning as a part of work. Supporting these journeymen in how to be good coaches can be the role of the Learning & Development department. This is not course production or delivery. It is helping organizational knowledge grow.

Organizations should have systems in place so that non-supervisors are required to coach less experienced coworkers. This will build resilience into the knowledge networks that drive organizational performance. When work is learning, and learning is the work, we cannot leave the bridge between education and experience unmanned.


5 Responses to “the bridge from education to experience”

  1. Gary Bender

    that journeyman position is actually the hardest task to complete when working with someone who has the “knowledge”, I’m reminded a poem “Behold I stand at the Door”, we often strive to reach the master level but perhaps the optimal person (and really one of the hardest jobs) to help in bridging that step is the master who understands the journey and helps bridge that next step with the novice, we all can think of someone in our workplace who does that, who focuses not on their own status as a master of whatever, but always willing to help the noviceup to the next step ….. thanks for sharing Harold


Leave a Reply

  • (will not be published)