Chapter 4: The shapes taken by personal professional knowledge

Before we can speak further about epistemic fluency, we need to say more about what we mean by knowledge and knowing. It is impossible to describe professional knowledge in a simple uniform way. The fundamental message coming from a variety of research domains is quite consistent. Human beings, including professional workers and experts, draw upon a variety of knowledge types; they learn this knowledge and draw upon it in their professional practice in a variety of ways (Argyris, 1993; Bereiter, 2002b; Collins & Evans, 2007; Collins, 2010; Davenport, 2005; Eraut, 1985, 1994, 2010; Ericsson, 2009; Farrell, 2006; Gromman, 1990; Harper, 1987; Hoffmann & Roth, 2005; Schön, 1995).

When it comes to describing what constitutes personal professional knowledge, it becomes clear that, from a cognitive standpoint, this knowledge is not so dissimilar from the general knowledge that one acquires through, and draws upon in, everyday life. In fact, almost all the types of knowledge that are used to characterise expertise have their counterparts in accounts of general knowledgeability. For example, Bereiter’s (2002) dissection of the main aspects of knowledgeability – stable, episodic, implicit, impressionistic and regulative knowledge, and skill – has much in common with Eraut’s (1994, 2009, 2010) depiction of professional personal knowledge and capability: codified knowledge, accumulated memories, personal understandings, self-knowledge, meta-processes and know how (see Table 4.1). These aspects of knowledgeability are closely associated with distinct kinds of memory, and, as Donald (2010) notes, they are likely to stand as functionally identifiable cognitive subsystems which have different learning and retrieval characteristics, and could function, at least in part, independently (e.g., episodic memories are usually acquired from a single encounter, while skills are learnt gradually through repetition).

However, there is more controversy about how these different aspects of knowledgeability are implemented by the human brain and how they relate to each other. There are even deeper differences about what counts as knowledge, and about how what one knows connects to language, perception and action, both individual and collective. How does culture, with its particular symbolic and material structures and representations, and how do workplace settings, with their tools and physical environments, shape and get shaped by (professional) ways of knowing? These questions are far from trivial. Getting the right answers is very important for educators who are helping university graduates and practitioners to develop professional knowledgeability that links the (largely representational) knowledge usually learnt in classroom environments with the (largely performative) knowledge relevant to workplaces.

To provide a general sense of what kinds of capacities professional knowledge may involve, this chapter summarises some useful distinctions made in the literature about different kinds of knowledge, and what those differences may entail …

Source: These are extracts from Chapter 4 of Markauskaite, L., & Goodyear, P. (forthcoming, 2015). Epistemic fluency and professional education: innovation, knowledgeable action and actionable knowledge. Dordrecht: Springer. This is a close-to-final draft. Please check the final published version if you are going to quote it. The book  is available from Springer’s e-shop.

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One response to “Chapter 4: The shapes taken by personal professional knowledge

  1. Pingback: Epistemic fluency, interdisciplinarity and expertise | epistemic fluency

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