The keynote for the OpenLearning Conference 2018 on the 27th November 2018, in Kuala Lumpur. It synthesises the main practical insights and implications for design of individual courses and education as a socio-technical system. The slides could be dowloaded here, the abstract is below (Presented by Lina, but see the acknowledgements)
How can we help prepare students to solve wicked problems when nobody knows exactly what these problems will be, for jobs and professions that do not yet exist and for a society whose contours, as Anthony Giddens put it, ‘we can as yet only dimly see’?
For the last ten years, I have been researching how university students learn to integrate different kinds of knowledge and ways of knowing needed for innovative and skilful professional action in the world — how they develop a capability called ‘epistemic fluency’. Drawing on my studies and related innovations in my teaching, I will argue that education needs to go beyond the established notions of ‘learning as knowledge acquisition’ or ‘learning as participation’ and go beyond developing courses or shaping students’ experiences. Instead, it should focus on learning that enables students to re-imagine their future, co-assemble their own environments, and co-create actionable knowledge that runs away outside the educational institutions. This is a risky business that requires openness to the world in which the students will live, in fact, to the world which they will co-create.
Universities and other educational institutions have skin in this game. They need courage and wisdom to move beyond their secure ‘industrial’ methods for assuring educational quality, and embrace a greater diversity of ways in which they teach and produce socially valuable knowledge.
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)