Anglers, Warriors, and Acrobats: The Journey of Learning in Cooperative Education

Title: Anglers, Warriors, and Acrobats: The Journey of Learning in Cooperative Education
Authors: Jones, Jeela
Date: 2013
Abstract: Each year, students who are newly enrolled in the University of Ottawa Cooperative Education Programs prepare for their first co-op work terms. In this period of pre-employment, students ask themselves important questions like, “What do I have to do to get a job?” and “What do I want to be?” As a co-op practitioner I am exposed to students’ experiences and the dilemmas they face but I still wondered what was hidden from my view and outside of my understanding. Thus, during one-on-one interviews that occurred prior to their first co-op work terms, six co-op students shared the photographs and stories of their co-op experiences with me and I shared my photographs and stories with them. Goffman’s (1959) theory of dramaturgy provided the theoretical framework to present, interpret, and understand the words and pictures that emerged from these interviews. What resulted were dramas, narratives, and allegories: six participant descriptions written as mini-biographies, verbatim transcripts prepared as a reader’s theatre script, and a set of five themes composed with vivid symbolism. The five metaphoric themes of co-op student experience are (a) journey, (b) circus, (c) metamorphosing, (d) anglers at sea, and (e) warriors. Taken together, what emerged was a deeper seeing and a richer understanding of what’s “really going on” in the time prior to students’ first co-op work terms (Goffman, 1974, p. 8) particularly with regards to legitimate peripheral participation, reflection, and experiential learning.
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