Monday, January 31, 2011

The Reflective Practitioner

Every once in a while, years ago, I would get together with a faculty member who taught philosophy at the community college where I worked. I loved to ask him questions and hear him reflect on his dissertation, a recent publication, or a discussion he had recently facilitated in a philosophy class. At times we would explore different sides of the argument about the value of a liberal arts education and its place in the community college – particularly one with a number of career programs. One sunny spring day at a sidewalk cafĂ©, I thought I’d crafted a position that (for the sake of argument and to expand my thinking from his greatly anticipated response) ruled out the need for general education when tuition-paying students deserved to have a degree that simply led to a job or a career. Without missing a beat, the Professor quickly deconstructed my statements and responded, “it’s fine to have that welder graduate from our college and be the very best welder he or she can be – I want that student in my philosophy class so they understand not just what they’re welding, but why they’re welding. I’m in the business of creating the reflective practitioner.”

That notion, of a reflective practitioner, has stayed with me. Offering a comprehensive array of both liberal arts and technical career programs is one of the many things I cherish about Mohawk Valley Community College. Most technical colleges are so narrowly focused that students lose the context of their craft and lack a deeper understanding of their field. A number of community colleges have jettisoned technical degree programs because of the expense and, as a result, have quietly become nothing more than a junior college by default – offering low-cost transfer programs. MVCC, on the other hand, has a wide-range of transfer programs that provide low-cost/high-value options for the first two-years of college, as well as technical programs in nearly every career cluster.

I am so proud of MVCC’s commitment to the range of programs we have; our unique Diversity and Global View graduation requirement; and the introduction of learning communities and interdisciplinary work of late. Our world is rapidly increasing in complexity, so the importance of, and appreciation for, our comprehensive mission and ability to integrate learning experiences for students has never been greater. These things help create a clear path for us to focus our curriculum, further define the environment for student success, and graduate those reflective practitioners who will lead this community, state, and country through the uncertain future that lies ahead.

If you have any thoughts on this post, please contact me at presblog@mvcc.edu.