This small deck of slides comes from the EATEL webinar “Interdisciplinarity in Technology-Enhanced Learning”. It was conducted as as dialog between Lina Markauskaite and Carolyn Rosé, December 12th, 2018.
This presentation, entitled “Interdisciplinarity and epistemic fluency: What makes complex knowledge work possible”, draws on the notions of “epistemic infrastructures” and “epistemic games”. It argues that each research field needs to build its own epistemic infrastructure for doing joint knowledge work. Constructing shared epsitemic infrastructures is particularly important (and challenging) for interdisciplinary fields, such as TEL. In order to do this, the field needs to understand much better how researchers (and practitioners) do joint knowledge work and then build deliberatively robust socio-technical epistemic infrastructures that enable to work across disciplinary boundaries productively.
The topic chosen for the second edition of the Webinar series is “Interdisciplinarity in TEL”. The TEL field is interdisciplinary by definition. This makes TEL an especially interesting research field. Yet, it also brings complexity at different levels. A challenge for TEL researchers is to properly understand what is interdisciplinarity in our field, its challenges and implications. In the first part of the dialog, Lina Markauskaite will elaborate on the concept of epistemic fluency as “the capacity to understand, switch between and combine different kinds of knowledge and different ways of knowing about the world” (Markauskaite & Goodyear, 2016). Carolyn Rosé will talk about the history of the International Alliance to Advance Learning in the Digital Era, why it was important to her to work towards that as the personal objective of her past presidency in ISLS. She will also talk about interdisciplinarity in her own research bringing learning sciences, human-computer interaction, and artificial intelligence together. The second part of the dialog will consist of a ‘questions & answers debate’ by the two speakers, with participation of the audience.
This is one more recent chapter that extends our work on epistemic fluency: Goodyear, P., & Markauskaite, L. (2019). The impact on practice of wicked problems and unpredictable futures. In J. Higgs, S. Cork, & D. Horsfall (Eds.), Challenging future practice possibilities (pp. 41-52). Rotterdam, The Netherlands: Brill Sense. You may have access to a digital copy of this chapter via your institutional subscription. But if you don’t have access and you are interested, please email us. We will be happy to send you a copy of the pre-print (for the sole purpose of your private use of course). The extracts below should give you an idea of what this chapter is about. Note, they are from the pre-print. Check accuracy in the published version if you will quote.
“Education faces a conundrum. On the one hand, imagined futures are becoming more diverse, fluid and contested. On the other, knowledge and learning are widely believed to be key to survival, success and sustainability. < . . . > There is a broad consensus that it cannot stay the same (Collins, 2017). But in many countries, there is deep disquiet about relations between current education and the futures of those it is meant to serve. Indeed, one sometimes senses a paralysis, brought about by conflicting ideologies as much as by the intrinsic difficulties of making sense of an uncertain, complex world.”
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“In this chapter, we aim to offer something more positive. We suggest that there are tools that people can learn to use to deal with complex ‘wicked’ problems. These tools can be used by young and old, but are especially relevant to those who are invested in a problematic situation – those with ‘skin in the game’. These ways of dealing with wicked problems are deeply social. They do not start from an assumption that the best problem solvers are lone wolves: creative, entrepreneurial market-disruptors, motivated by personal profit. Quite the reverse. In our view, tools for working on wicked problems are embodiments of shared ‘moral know-how’, sharpened for the work of collaborative and co-operative future-making.
The rapid and accelerating pace of technological development has had an odd effect on ways we imagine the future. We see it as unknowable and full of risks for which we should prepare, without really knowing what to prepare for: as if the explosion of technological possibilities creates a blinding glare. It need not be so. Technological profusion should cause us to ask a different kind of question: not ‘what will the future world be like, and require of us?’ but ‘what kind of future world do we want to make?’. The genre changes from prediction to design; from reading tea leaves to taking action.”
If reports in the media can be trusted, then “knowing” isn’t what it used to be. It seems that we are all caught in a rip, being swept helplessly from a knowledge-based world into a post-truth society, where robots will take all the best jobs.
The latest edition of the Innovating Pedagogy report, published annually by the UK’s Open University, names “epistemic education” as one of the “high impact” trends that will become widespread in education over the next two to five years.
Simultaneously, the Merriam-Webster dictionary’s Trend watch list is topped by the word “epistemic”. Something is going on here, but is it just a flash in the pan? An educational fad feeding off a moral panic about fake news, alternative facts and information bubbles?
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.
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.
This site has been created as a home for resources and discussion on the topic of Epistemic Fluency (Read more).
"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 possess epistemic fluency." (Read more in Chapter 1 of Epistemic fluency book)