Book proposal

The main text of the book proposal to Springer

What does it take to be a productive member of a multidisciplinary team working on a complex problem? What enables a person to integrate different types and fields of knowledge, indeed different ways of knowing, in order to make some well-founded decisions about actions to be taken in the world? What personal knowledge resources are entailed in analysing a problem and describing an innovative solution, such that the innovation can be shared in an organization or professional community? How do people get better at these things; and how can teachers in higher education help students develop these valued capacities? The answers to these questions are central to a thorough understanding of what it means to become an effective knowledge worker and of how the preparations of students for a profession can be improved.

Working on real-world problems usually requires the combination of different kinds of specialised and context-dependent knowledge, as well as different ways of knowing. People who are flexible and adept with respect to different ways of knowing about the world can be said to posses “epistemic fluency”.

This book is intended to make a contribution to our understanding of epistemic fluency in some of the core activities of professional workers. It uses data from a four-year project investigating the boundaries between (university-based) professional education and professional practice, with the aim of analysing the epistemic nature of such professional work and identifying some key sources of capability that people need if they are to engage successfully in it. These embrace a range of mental resources, including conceptual, perceptual and experiential resources and, especially, the epistemic resources that help people to recognise and switch between different ways of knowing and forms of knowledge. Such resources also help people participate in the creation of new knowledge that can be represented and shared in their professional culture(s).

The book is part of a general move to build upon, and integrate, cognitivist and socio-cultural accounts of learning, knowing and acting. It draws on research into professional learning carried out in continental Europe, Britain, North America and Australia. It unites this with two previously discrete streams of theorisation about learning and thinking which originate in (i) research on science education and “resource-based” epistemology, originating in America and (ii) research on the materiality of knowledge work, originating in France. The book’s synthesis of recent research into the nature of professional learning, knowledge work and personal mental resources offers a new and powerful conceptualisation of epistemic fluency in professional practice. It links the social and material investigation of purposeful activity with the exploration of key features of mental resourcefulness in knowledge work. Results from our empirical studies are used to illustrate and develop this conceptual framework and to shed light on practical ways in which the development of epistemic fluency can be recognised and supported – in higher education and in the transition to work. The book will be of interest to an international audience of researchers, as well as to curriculum leaders and other practitioners in the areas of professional education and continuing professional development.

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