Year

1995

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

Graduate School of Education

Abstract

This study began in observations about an apparent tension between the views held by trade instructors and the curriculum and instructional formulations with which they work in the vocational education and training setting. Three research questions emerged: Do trade instructors use frameworks or systems of beliefs, values, attitudes and feelings that guide their approach to knowledge and knowing? What are the main typologies that underpin these frameworks? Do the views of trade instructors embody characteristic ways of presenting or perceiving reality? These questions guided a systematic search for understandings of the ways trade instructors construe knowledge. It involved uncovering, clarifying, and authenticating the ways in which they interpret and give meaning to knowledge and knowing.

The trade instructors in this study portrayed a strong commitment typology based on a practical-theoretical dichotomy. They presented 'practical' knowledge as the essence of what constitutes valued and valid knowledge. This is a concept that has breadth and complexity. Essential characteristics of practical knowledge are captured in terms such as 'craftsmanship', for it enables the tradeworker to perform with mastery, excellence and proficiency across a variety of settings, and within the full tutelary spirit of the trade. It outcrops in the tangible processes, materials and outcomes of the trade and these act as the primary referents for what counts as valid knowledge. Because the dominant context in their lives is the skilled trades, these trade instructors derived significant aspects of their views from the nature and practices of work in the skilled trades, including the notion of lineal descent as the process for acquiring valid knowledge.

In seeking theoretical development, the study moved through several major phases: the systemisation of existing theories and research; an in-depth and intensive study with a small number of trade instructors to expose constructs that underpin their views; and a survey of a large number of trade instructors to explore the extent to which the constructs are shared by other trade instructors.

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