In our “slideware” you can now find a set of slides from a presentation that reviews the main ideas from our Epistemic Fluency book. These particular slides were used during the seminar entitled “Epistemic fluency in higher education: Bridging actionable knowledge and knowledgeable action” @The Oxford Centre for Sociocultural and Activity Theory Research (OSAT). Similar (but not identical) slides were also used during our presentations @University of Sydney (CRLI), University of Oslo (ExCID), University of Bergen (SLATE), University of Helsinki (CRADLE), University of Southern Denmark, and University of Stirling (ProPEL). If you can’t find something important, then email us and ask.
What does it take to be a productive member of a multidisciplinary team working on a complex problem? How do people get better at these things? How can researchers get deeper insight in these valued capacities; and how can teachers help students develop them? Working on real-world professional 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 possess epistemic fluency.
Drawing upon and extending the notion of epistemic fluency, in this research seminar, we will present some key ideas that we developed studying how university teachers teach and students learn complex professional knowledge and skills. Our account combines grounded and enacted cognition with sociocultural and material perspectives of human knowing and focus on capacities that underpin knowledgeable action and innovative professional work. In this seminar, we will discuss critical roles of grounded conceptual knowledge, ability to embrace professional materially-grounded ways of knowing and students’ capacities to construct their epistemic environments.
What is the nature of wicked professional problems? What kinds of knowledge and capabilities are entailed in solving them? Some insights are summarised in Peter Goodyear’s recent presentation “Understanding the nature and impact of wicked problems and unpredictable futures on employability” presented at Think Tank Employment vs Employability – What do we owe our graduates in the age of Digital Communications & Liquid Practice?, Charles Sturt University. It draws on Chapter 19 “Teaching and learning for epistemic fluency” from Epistemic fluency book. If you are interested in the practicalities, then you may be interested in reading this chapter. It synthesises and illustrates four kinds of pedagogical approaches that could help prepare students for solving different kinds of complex professional problems. The abstract of the chapter is bellow.
Chapter 19: Teaching and learning for epistemic fluency
In this chapter, we turn towards the practicalities of professional education. We use an examination of four broad approaches to education to assess what each can offer to those professional educators who are looking to teach for epistemic fluency. These educational approaches come from a range of sources – not just from professional education. All these approaches focus on fine-tuning learners’ intelligent sensitivity to the critical features of the external environment. However, each of them aims to help learners make distinct connections between different kinds of knowledge and coordinate distinct ways of knowing and acting within the world. Thus, we argue that each has a part to play in completing the jigsaw of education for epistemic fluency. In shorthand terms, the approaches focus on: a) knowledge integration and cognitive flexibility; b) playing epistemic games; c) designerly work on knowledge building and d) learning to design inquiry.
Our work on epistemic fluency has been nicely taken up by Thomas Carey in his article “Is the Future of Liberal Arts Programs “K-Shaped”?’ published in Inside Higher ED. The article offers a very interesting rethinking of the learning outcomes traditionally associated with Liberal Arts education and possible new ways for (re)designing Liberal Arts majors. Epistemic fluency is at the core of the offered perspective. Few quotes:
We aren’t planning to encourage all our Humanities majors to take a minor in Economics or Business to bolster their value proposition in the workplace – that would only encourage the impression that expertise in particular workplace domains is the key to graduates’ success. Instead, one of the ways we are tackling this challenge is through exploring epistemic fluency in particular workplace knowledge practices rather than particular professional knowledge domains.
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Just as we need to integrate the development of essential learning outcomes into development of student capabilities in their major disciplines, there has to be a strong intersection of all of the K-elements ‒ discipline depth, essential outcome breadth and documented capability in one or more emerging knowledge practices ‒ in order for the desired epistemic fluency to mature.
Read the full article here
We have a publication date for the book: October 15th
We added to our slideware our presentation “Bridging professional learning, doing and innovation through making epistemic artefacts”, presented last week at the Practice-Based Education Summit “Bridging Practice Spaces” at Charles Sturt University. This presentation draws on the ideas from Chapter 8: Objects, things and artefacts in professional learning and doing of the book “Epistemic Fluency and Professional Learning“. It discusses how students’ work on making various artefacts for their assessments in courses that prepare them for professional practice bridges knowledge learnt in university setting with knowledge work in workplaces.
The gist of our argument can be summarised as follows:
- Professional expertise is inseparable from capacities to (co-)construct epistemic environments that enhance knowledgeable actions.
- Such expertise is grounded in embodied, situated professional knowledge work.
- Much of this work is done by (co-)creating epistemic artefacts that embody actionable knowledge.
- Productive epistemic artefacts connect the object (‘why’ of work) and the thing (‘what’ of work) through action (‘know how’) and ways of thinking that underpin situated professional innovation (ie. epistemic fluency)
In learning, much of the value of the epistemic artefacts comes from their dual and deeply entangled nature: they are simultaneously objective and grounded in situated experiences (aka. subjective). They embody actionable knowledge, and the activity through which they are constructed embodies knowledgeable action. They are reflective and projective.