Document Type


Publication Date

Summer 7-1-1999

Publication Source



Anglia Polytechnic University (UK)

Place of Publication

United Kingdom

Peer Reviewed



This research set out to examine the role of craft based education in hospitality management schools from a developmental perceptive. The first exploratory study found that craft based learning could not be isolated from the total learning environment in which students were developing adult thinking skills. The second investigation examined students from the same institution in the light of young adult development literature. Relativistic thinking was identified as a general area of agreement in the literature but the underpinning structural unity of this thinking skill could possibly be challenged.

In the first school I conducted my study, interviewees did not provide evidence of using relativistic thinking as it is described in literature, however they did use relativism within the context of their learning environment which I called ‘local relativistic thinking’. These findings indicated that the learning environment had a profound effect on the development of relativistic thinking and showed that interpersonal relations were critical in this process. A third set of interviews were carried out in a different learning environment which nevertheless included craft based learning in its curriculum. The findings in this institution indicated that students developed a more generalised form of relativistic thinking which was consistent with the schools’ ethos.

This thesis has shown that craft based learning offered grounding that helped students’ contextualise theories and gave them a setting for their first experiences of industry. Craft based learning also provided complex situations that helped students develop awareness of relativism. However the two schools in which I conducted my study used craft based learning within a different educational ethos. It was the learning environment as a whole that held forms of cultural knowledge such as specific forms of relativistic thinking. In both schools I noticed that different forms of relativistic thinking existed.

The transmission processes of these forms of relativistic thinking were critical to the students’ development. This support was not the same throughout the four years of college life in each one of the two institutions I studied. In both schools, lecturers played a key role in so far as they provided instances when students could assimilate knowledge and receive emotional comfort. I have referred to these instances as transgenerational development.

In the second institution I studied there was evidence of support being specifically designed to make students progress towards a more generalised mode of relativistic thinking. The structure and nature of this support was similar to scaffolding as it is described in literature. It appeared a novel observation that a scaffolded programme helped students develop relativistic thinking. My investigations revealed that the lecturers’ own relativistic thinking helped them provide students with a support which was matched to their needs. Students benefited from instances when the pressure to move ahead was replaced by an effort to understand, translate and relate to them.

The philosophical stance I took implied that my work did not have the pretence of offering an exclusive all encompassing theory of development. Transgenerational development and scaffolding were concepts that I compared to search lights, their function was to provide valuable insights into specific aspects of the young adult development processes for practitioners and researchers.

Finally, this study questions the structural unity of relativistic thinking by showing that the socio-cultural environment in which it develops can profoundly influence this form of thinking. Furthermore some evidence is presented which indicates that relativistic thinking could be a particular context sensitive case of formal operations.


hospitality, education, practical learning, methodology


Curriculum and Instruction | Developmental Psychology | Hospitality Administration and Management