Today, I was talking to one author in the USPJA system, explaining why our teaching methods are different than what you’d find in traditional learning formats.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that class room training is better or worse than what we do, but we do have different approaches to building knowledge.
First of all, USPJA is a university, meaning our approach to teaching is more like a traditional college than a normal computer class. What that also means is that we are more focused on pointing the way rather than explaining how to walk. Although not directly the same, it would be closer to saying to a class room that “Here’s what you’re going to learn this week. Here are some recommended resources, and here’s what I expect you to be able to do after you’re done. Now, get started!”
A very important philosophy of USPJA is to build SharePoint professionals. A good SharePoint professional, however, isn’t measured by how many tasks he or she can perform, but rather how well they are able to understand a problem space and apply good practices to solving that problem. We teach people how to find, utilize, and digest information more than we teach specific steps.
Of course, this isn’t the only thing we teach, there’s plenty of step-by-step instructions, videos, books, and journals, meant both to illustrate key learning points and to inspire creativity. However, you’ll find few recipes for solving specific problems at USPJA. Our faculty members are even encouraged to avoid answering specific questions even if they know the answer. Instead they should direct the student to where they can find the information they need, either in our own library or in external sources. This in turn teaches the student to be self-sufficient and from that, gain confidence and knowledge that last long after the stop studying at the academy.
For example, rather than teaching how to build a client taxonomy in SharePoint, we’ll teach you the tools you need, explain the principles of a good taxonomy, and show you how different components of SharePoint work together to support any type of taxonomy. We’ll show you or provide you with the resources you need. Then, if you want to implement a client taxonomy or any other type of taxonomy, you’ll know how to do so.
One of the team assignments for my class in Beginning SharePoint Development basically reads: “To complete the team assignments for this class, you should first come up with a problem to solve, then solve that problem using all the major components taught in this class.” From that, the students need to work together to come up with a problem that SharePoint can solve, and then design and implement the solution using what they learn and find during the class.
So, in other words, we’re not teaching recipes, we’re teaching how to be chefs 🙂
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