Writing the Pedagogy for Professional Schools and Students Guide
by Richard Coble, Graduate Teaching Fellow
Is there a problem with professional schools?
A growing number of commenters and scholars have decried the professionalization of education, the perceived movement in colleges and universities away from the liberal arts and preparing thoughtful citizenship to meeting market-based needs. But does this critique necessarily apply to professional schools? What does responsible professional education look like? How do professional schools form thoughtful professionals who bring theory and practice into a mutual conversation?
I examine and provide a path towards answering these questions in the Center for Teaching’s new Pedagogy for Professional Schools and Students guide. As a PhD candidate in religion, as well as a seminary graduate and current graduate teaching fellow for the CFT, I have pursued research and a program that asks questions of the relationship between theory and practice. In my own work, I find these two less clearly separated as imagined by the critiques of professional education.
Thus, throughout the guide, I have asked how schools form thoughtful, responsible professionals who weave together critical thinking with the skills of their various trades. I found a resource in scholarship on signature pedagogies, disciplinary ways of teaching and learning that form students who deepen the skills of their trade with the characteristic ways of critical thought and action of their profession.
Examining signature pedagogies across various professional schools, from nursing schools to seminaries, teaching education to social work, the guide then provides concrete analysis and practical steps for forming thoughtful and critical professionals. I finish by summarizing the work of Patricia Benner, who examines the steps toward professional expertise and illustrates how seamlessly theory and practice intertwine as professionals learn to approach their tasks intuitively.