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10 Responses to “Learning by Osmosis”

  1. John Seel says:

    Professional training — particularly that conducted in seminaries — should pay close heed to this essay. The move toward distant learning as a cost saving alternative to the embodied presence of godly mentors only makes sense when applied to the “Knowledge Transfer” model. It is a strategic move in the wrong direction. Apprenticeship is less efficient, but more effective. It is high time that we actually took the example of Jesus’ incarnation more seriously.

  2. Ken says:

    Why does it have to be “either/or”? What is wrong with the “and/both” option?

    I am an assistant coach for my son’s basketball and lacrosse teams and I have learned both from attending lectures AND watching better coaches.

    I am a Systems Engineer and I have learned much in the Universities I attended AND much working with better Engineers.

    Certainly most would learn more from an apprenticeship, but that doesn’t mean such things as leactures, distant education, or other “knowledge transfer” models are not useful or wrong.

    So why does one have to be WRONG? Why not use BOTH?

  3. Dwight Gibson says:

    Good insight on the world of learning. My son is an architectural engineering major a Drexel University. He chose the school because of the coop program. He is getting ready to begin his second coop with one of the leading firms in the region. His “learning” has been about the task and about the profession and about what it means to work. The one is taught from books, the other is caught from the relationships.

  4. Chris says:

    I am an architecture student at the University of Maryland, and I find much of this is very relevant. We are required to take many classes that are never applied to our main studio class, all for requirements. However, the IDP (Intern Development Program) is another requirement for licensing, a program that requires a certain amount of hours with a firm before taking the tests. However, much of the issues with schooling are still there.

  5. Terry says:

    “Apprenticeship is the educational model that allows us to inhabit the truths of our master/teacher.”

    Not only does the student inhabit the truth of his master/teacher in this model, but the truth also inhabits the student.

    Bloom’s Affective Domain describes objectives for education that, at the highest level of learning, characterizes the student. The master’s truth has informed and transformed the student’s grid through which the student interprets, makes decisions, and acts. Truth has habituated the student.

    If the academy would adopt more learning outcomes based on affective goals, then higher education would produce similar results described in this article. See also Leroy Ford, A Curriculum Design Manual for Theological Education.

    In addition, the Apprentice Model naturally tends to create activities for the student that meet affective learning outcomes. The apprentice learns by doing, which forms habits, practices, commitments, and characteristics out of that which the student learns. The student assesses learning through performance and attitudes that the mentor or journeyman can appreciate and advise. The student adopts that which the master demonstrates, models, practices, exemplifies, etc. Imitation of the master by the student is a key feature in this model.

    Moreover, the Apprentice Model tends to create relationships; we learn more when we join with others who are on the same journey. Trust helps accelerate learning. We emulate those we like and trust and admire; we experiment more readily in safe environments–free from ridicule and criticism. The master becomes coach.

    And, because the Apprentice Model occurs in a social context, i.e. on-the-job, the student lives within the culture or ethos of the subject and learns the subject more effectively. Rather than studying the subject in a classroom under the direction of a lecture about the subject, the student experiences the subject in context with the constituents that make up the environment of the subject.

    Thus, field education leads the typical seminary’s mission by emphasizing the Apprenticeship Model in its contextual learning experiences.

    One could argue that they need more!

  6. Dave says:

    There is no substitute for the mentoring aspect to learning. However, I had deeper sense of connectedness when I took a correspondance course (that consisted of listening to cassette tapes) with J. Julius Scott at Wheaton College than I ever had with any of my professors at Johns Hopkins.

    Why was that?

  7. The Irreverent Reverend's Wife says:

    I’m thinkin’ Frank Smith “Joining the Literacy Club”, Parker Palmer’s “To Know As We Are Known”, Esther Meek’s “Longing to Know”, and Michael Polanyi’s “Personal Knowledge”, to drop a few names and works. Carry on, comrades.

  8. Jeffrey Furniss says:

    David, great article. I think many of the same thoughts regarding my profession and practice in wealth managment. Many firms simply couldn’t get out and “know” the bundled assets they bought. It was efficient. Used to be the local banker knew the customer and the assets they held. Mike, thanks for including a great guest writer.

  9. Kathryn says:

    I see and agree with this. I have seen it in my own life with teaching. I think physicians do a both/and approach as well and certainly chefs must as well. But I think one must also add love to the mix. If one does not love what one does, not much of anything will help.

    Personally – and on a lighter note – I hope that David G.’s 30 years experience causes him to put more women’s bathrooms in public venues than men’s. I’m still waiting for a shorter line…

  10. David Greusel says:


    You’ll be happy to know that many localities have “potty parity” regulations that do indeed call for more fixtures for women. Of course, my firm didn’t need a law to tell us to do that. We inhabit that truth already.

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