Apprenticing with a Problem
& Experiential Education

Antoinette D. Carroll’s concepts of equity designers and design allies, offers educators a pathway to both support and highlight the value of lived experience and experiential learning by encouraging students seeking to impact changes in systems they don’t yet understand to become allies within the challenge or problem spaces they choose to focus on in their work or study. Doing so requires some sort of “apprenticeship” or “experiential” understanding of the problem or systems in question, beyond the classroom and desk research. The term “Apprenticing with a Problem” was used in co-author Daniela Papi-Thornton’s report, Tackling Heropreneurship. She borrowed the term, with permission, from an interview with Jessamyn Shams-Lau, Director of the Peery Foundation, who used the term in courses she taught at Brigham Young University. The term does not mean one needs to walk through fire to understand what it means to be burned, like Derek Snook, who voluntarily decided to live among the homeless for a year. Instead, the “Apprenticing with a Problem” concept is a call to invite students to work with, learn from, or do hands on research in an existing organization or community effort as a means of learning more about a problem and the system holding it in place in order to find opportunities to contribute to change, rather than initially jumping in to take the lead on starting a new venture to solve it. It relates to the concept of a design ally, as it is an invitation to find a way to be of service in shifting an inequitable system, without needing to be the “founder” or “director” of such change. There are many models inviting students to immerse themselves in a local or global challenge, and here are three examples that might inspire more.