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Friday, March 13, 2015

More categories: training v. teaching, and profession v. trade

In this post, I gave a quick overview of Linda Edwards' recent article in which she discusses various categorical approaches to the doctrine-skills debate, advancing a "foundational, bridge, and capstone" model.  This discussion is important because we can't start talking about the proper allocation of resources to each category (a controversial question) until we understand the categories themselves.

I thought I would discuss a couple of more categories that she didn't cover but which I often heard discussed in the halls at the Army's law school.

There, the "are we a trade school or a law school" debate regularly came up.  The school offers an LL.M. but also hosts a lot of CLE courses.  Within the LL.M., when "skills" (or things that looked more like CLE) encroached upon the traditional "doctrine" ground, the debate would flare up.  Variations of the debate included, "are we teaching or are we training?"  My general response was, "Well, that depends on what those labels mean." 

The primary category is "adult education."  The definition of this category is planned learning for adults (more formally, "activities intentionally designed for the purpose of bringing about learning among those whose age, social roles, or self-perception define them as adults," from Sharan B. Merriam & Ralph G. Brockett, The Profession and Practice of Adult Education (2007).  This is the source for most of what follows). 

This category excludes what you learn when you read on your own.  And this excludes the teaching of children (the art and science of teaching children is pedagogy; the art and science of teaching adults is andragogy). 

Within this category, we can make subcategories based on the goals of that particular program of adult education.  Generally, the goals of adult education are to meet the needs of individuals, institutions, or society (or a combination of those).  When institutions conduct adult education just to meet the needs of that institution (say, the Army conducts adult education to meet the needs of the Army, or IBM conducts adult education to meet the needs of IBM), then adult education theorists call that "training." 

The education that occurs in most law schools does not fall into this category -- most law schools are educating students to meet the needs of broader society.  The education that occurs at the Army's law school would fall into this category, though.  The goal of that education is to meet the needs of the military institution.  At the Army's law school, they are teaching and they are training.  Training is a subset of teaching.  So asking, "Are we teaching or training," doesn't make much sense.  ("Are we eating fruit or apples?")

When it comes to resource allocation, as in "We are doing too much training and not enough teaching," I'm not sure that this category does much work.  Unless I have the power to change the institution's goals, it doesn't really matter if I call this training or teaching. 

Going back to the larger category of adult education, we can make different subcategories for "profession" and "trade."  Earlier, I provided James Burk's definition of "profession," which is a "high status occupation whose members apply abstract knowledge to solve problems in a particular field of endeavor."  In contrast, according to Webster's, a trade is "an occupation requiring manual or mechanical skill."

Where many people get uncomfortable is when the teaching shifts from the abstract law to the concrete, "mechanical" skills.  Geoffrey Millerson provides a refinement of the definition of "profession" that helps with this discomfort: "A profession is higher-grade, non-manual occupation.  Non-manual, in this context, implies that the intellectual, or practical, technique involved depends on a substantial theoretical foundation."  That is what we find in law (cross-examination or negotiation techniques, for example) and medicine (incision or bedside manners techniques, for example).  These "mechanical" skills are still professional skills, not trade skills.

Based on that, the Army's law school -- no matter how many resources are devoted to skills -- is still a professional school.  By definition, it can't be a trade school.

Like the "training" category, when it comes to resource allocation, as in "We need to avoid stuff that looks like "trade craft" and focus on the "law," this categorization scheme doesn't do much work.   Just about everything we do is professional, not trade.  (Maybe law office management is trade?)

In contrast, the "foundation, bridge, and capstone" model does seem useful when it comes to resource allocation.  Linda Edwards does not tells us what she thinks the proper allocation should be -- she is just trying to get us to reframe the problem -- and resource allocation is where the controversy resides.  (Maybe Bloom's taxonomy pyramid is close.  Anything that pretty must be right.)

Posted by Eric Carpenter on March 13, 2015 at 03:10 PM in Teaching Law | Permalink


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