Chapter 14: Professional epistemic games

“I think that nearly every service that you provide [in pharmacy], even if it was just really quick and you’re getting a prescription in and then you’re giving it back out – at some stage there needs to be some information gathering to find out whether that’s appropriate; the processing is working out and ‘is it appropriate?’; and then the delivery is at least giving it back to them and providing some counselling.” (Pharmacy Lecturer)

The main aim of this chapter is to explain the function and nature of professional epistemic games. We identify a number of varieties of such epistemic games and we offer a taxonomy to capture their main similarities and differences. We take the view that programs of professional education implicitly involve students in learning to play a variety of epistemic games. Being able to distinguish clearly and explicitly between different types of games seems to us to be a prerequisite for a more considered, defensible and effective approach to curriculum planning. The bulk of Chapter 14 is taken up with a presentation of the taxonomy. This is preceded by an introduction to the notion of an epistemic game, with some pointers to the literature in which this construct originates (section 14.1). After that, we offer an extended example, inspired by some of our observational work in Pharmacy education. Section 14.3 summarises the rationale for, and approach to constructing, our taxonomy, which is presented in detail in Section 14.4. Our taxonomy includes a particularly important kind of epistemic game, which we have named the weaving game. We explain and illustrate this in Chapter 15, which also includes our general conclusions about the importance of epistemic games in professional education and professional work.

14.1    Introducing the idea of epistemic games

The notion of game has roots in diverse traditions: game as socially learnt rules and habits (Bourdieu, 1977); language games as a way of meaning-making (Wittgenstein, 1963); game as a kind of formal high-level thinking with abstract schemas (Ohlsson, 1993); game as a form of inquiry informed by a set of rules and strategies that guide inquiry around specific forms of inscription (Collins, 2011; Collins & Ferguson, 1993) and other forms of discourse (Ohlsson, 1993; Perkins, 1997), game as a set of skills, knowledge, values, identity, and epistemology that characterise expert behaviour in a particular community (Shaffer, 2006).

Combining those traditions, our emphasis in using the notion of game is on rules and flexibility, a fine-tuned practical sense of a situation and disposition for action. A game is a form of action that entangles rules of thought and rules of culture with affordances and constraints, symbolic inscriptions and the physical world.

Source: These are extracts from Chapter 14 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 14: Professional epistemic games

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

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