Thomas Carey recently published several valuable posts discussing how to develop innovation capabilities in higher education.
One shared thread that goes through these posts is that higher education needs to engage in innovation in order to figure out how to help students develop capabilities to innovate.
These posts also remind us that ‘innovation’ – at least in its current formulations of ‘innovation capability’ – is not only an epistemic project, but also a powerful socio-political project. Many units that define what constitutes ‘capability to innovate’ do this on the level of visible ‘events’ rather than deeper mechanisms that co-produce those events. This leaves for universities (if not for students) to figure out how those mechanisms actually work and what they need to teach/learn. It’s good to see some initiatives described in the posts above that try to assist with this.
Some ideas that could be help understand the complexity of learning to engage in joint socioscientific knowledge practices, such as innovation, we briefly discussed in Chapter 5: Professional knowledge and knowing in shared epistemic spaces: the person-plus perspective. We argued:
“…learning to (co)create epistemic practice (and culture) is – or at least should be – an integral part of both learning and professional culture. Such learning involves the capacity to master representational devices – linguistic systems, objects, and other cultural systems – and to assemble from them one’s own epistemic environments for joint knowledgeable work.” (p.105)
“Each knowledge domain, including the modern sciences and the professions, is a field of interrelated cognitive, material and social practices, rather than a set of statements, skills, and dispositions. So one’s understanding of, and ability to engage with, those knowledge practices become a core part of the epistemic fluency needed for professional work and innovation. These practices include work in specific epistemic spaces, as well as in shared epistemic spaces created through negotiation, joint work and co-assembling.” (p.120)
This set of slides has been prepared for a workshop “Interdisciplinary methods for researching teaching and learning”. It summarises some ideas about intellectual work across conventional (disciplinary) boundaries in education. A number of them draw on experiences working in the field of the learning sciences and writing the Epistemic fluency book. The main message is the paradoxical tension between what educational research is as practice and how educational research is organised and institutionalised as a formal research field (aka. discipline).
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.
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.
How can epistemic fluency perspectives be enacted in daily learning and teaching work? This presentation overviews the design of a blended course Systems, Change and Learning that fundamentally builds on the ideas of epistemic fluency. The course draws together three modes of human inquiry: systems thinking, design practice and responsive action. Through reflective engagement with ideas from different disciplinary domains and teamwork on practical innovation challenges, students begin to appreciate the need to accommodate diverse perspectives and learn to combine diverse ways of knowing. This is not a “flagship” course – it never received any extra funding or other “external” support – but a course that emerged gradually through our daily work with students. By being “usual” and simultaneously “different” this course has celebrated students’ deep engagement, collaboration and positive feedback. A brief description of our approach is in the presentation and this document. Below is a short summary.
Summary: Learning to lead innovation and change
Capacities to drive collective learning, jointly address complex practical challenges and create innovative solutions are seen as essential for future graduates. How can we prepare students to lead complex collaborative learning, change and innovation projects? How can we help them to develop the knowledge and skills needed for resourceful teamwork with other people who have different areas of expertise, experiences, and interests? Continue reading