I am pleased that Kwantlen invited me to follow up my presentation at their one-day conference by publishing a paper in their online journal. The presentation itself was unusually well attended, and I  think I managed to raise a few eyebrows. Alice McPherson is the heart and spirit behind the journal editorial team, and I appreciate her willingness to give voice to non-conformist ideologies.

I don’t consider the paper to be truly scholarly. I have called it an essay, because it is a personal piece written for a public audience. It expresses quite well my current views. I would like to get feedback, so it will be interesting to see if anyone responds. The essay is entitled Knowledges Exchange as a Framework for a Transformational Education System, and is attached here. It can also be seen online, along with other articles, at the website of the Transformative Dialogues journal. It’s  my hope that publishing my work will help me to develop the framework a little further.

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I take heart from Gardner’s work on Multiple Intelligences (See References listing).  Intelligences in the plural has entered the lexicon as a result of his work from the early 1990s. He originally proposed that there were  7 forms of intelligence: Musical, Bodily-Kinesthetic, Logical-Mathematical, Linguistic, Spatial, Interpersonal and Intrapersonal. Later, he (and others) began to recognize that there were infinitely more.  A summary of Gardner’s work, with many links can be found in Wikipedia under Multiple Intelligences  I can’t help noting that Wikipedia does not recognize Knowledges in the plural, and keeps inviting me to create a page — which I will one day.

I’m not so much interested in how many intelligences Gardner and his followers have counted. The number keeps increasing. What interests me is his argument that there are many intelligences. He explains that his vision is:

…a pluralistic view of mind, recognizing many different and discrete facets of cognitions, acknowledging that people have different cognitive strengths and contrasting cognitive styles (2006, p. 5)

This parallels my own thinking, of course, and I’m going to make some other posts referring to Gardner.  As for the similarities and differences between knowledges and intelligences, that’s something I’m thinking about. I have avoided defining knowledge and knowledges, but Gardner seems to have achieved clarity around intelligences. He writes:

An intelligence is a computational capacity–a capacity to process a certain kind of information–that originates in human biology and human psychology. (2006, p.6.)

So there.

I very much appreciate the participation of more than 15 people in the session I facilitated at Kwantlen University College a few days ago.  As I mentioned to them, it was somewhat overwhelming because it was a rare opportunity to gain feedback on the ideas I’ve been surfacing in this blog. It’s one thing to talk to myself here; it’s a different thing to get instant verbal feedback.

 In the few times I’ve been with a group, I’ve seen a similar reaction when I ask questions such as: What do you know? What is knowledge?  When you talk to someone about what you know, is that an exchange of knowledges?  Some people immediately fall to defending the proposition that there is one common body of knowledge that must be acquired. Others become quiet and thoughtful and they recognize the common sense of referring to knowledges in the plural.

I continue to maintain that the best teachers, such as the ones at Kwantlen, put enormous effort into trying to make factory schools more humane and learner-centred, against the insurmountable barriers put up by the power elite who have a vested interest in maintaining that system. It’s a difficult message to phrase, without insulting teachers.  Imagine what might be possible if they put their energies into creating a new system, more suited to the twent-first century.

A question was posed by a participant at Kwantlen, which has given me pause for thought. He wondered aloud about the benefits to society when certain knowledges are valued and given more recognition than others. The example he used was based on advances in medicine. Would we have cures for certain diseases if the knowledges of scientists that discovered them had not been rewarded more than other knowledges?

This is an excellent point, because I have argued here that in our education system, and in the broad social context in which that system exists, reward should be offered for exchanging knowledges, not individual acquisition of a knowledge set.  I have to think this through a little more, but my first thought is that those medical break-throughs probably wouldn’t have happened if the scientists had not worked together and shared information. We read occasionally about scientists who have slaved away in an isolated lab, and I’ve never heard that Einstein was a great team player. But more often these days we hear that a whole laboratory staff is being acknowledged for a discovery that will improve our lives.  Is rewarding teams and recognizing the achievement itself the key to curing the credentialism disease in our world?

Kwantlen University College in British Columbia is hosting a Symposium this month entitledForging Our Own Path: Dialogues on Teaching and Learning  and I’ve been invited to facilitate a session on “Knowledges Exchange as a Framework for Scholarship in Teaching and Learning”.

I’m looking forward to the exchanges with the Kwantlen faculty and staff, and other attendees. The challenge for me is to be open to those exchanges. If I’m to be true to what I believe in, I must resist going to the session with a PowerPoint presentation all prepared and a lecture rehearsed.  What, no PowerPoint? It always brings a laugh.

I’ve made presentations on the topic a few times now. For example, I’ve already mentioned my participation in the STLHE and ISSOTL Conferences. I always appreciate the thoughtful expressions that cross people’s faces when I raise the notion of knowledges in the plural. I’ll use this blog to report on how my suggestions are received in Kwantlen.

Continuing the examination of Berger and Luckmann (see References page), I’m looking for ways in which their comments support my framework of knowledges exchange.  For example,  there are many places in their text in which they acknowledge the diversity of knowledge sets. Early in their text, on page 3, they write:

The ‘knowledge’ of the criminal differs from the ‘knowledge’ of the criminologist.

They summarize their views (and mine) when they state:

The social stock of knowledge includes knowledge of my situation and its limits. For instance, I know that I am poor and that, therefore, I cannot expect to live in a fashionable suburb. This knowledge is, of course, shared both by those who are poor themselves and those who are in a more privileged situation. Participation in the social stock of knowledge thus permits the ‘location’ of individuals in society and the ‘handling’ of them in the appropriate manner (Berger and Luckmann, 1966, p. 42).

What a can of worms this opens up!  Apart from the concept of a social stock of knowledges, we now have to consider the proposition that there is a hierarchy of knowledges. This hierarchy, it seems, allows the privileged to marginalize those who have fewer or less valued knowledges. Plumbers are less respected than lawyers.

But we already know that. It’s misguided and foolish, but parents still direct their children away from the trades into the so-called professions.  So it seems that the theories around the social stock of knowledges (note my use of the plural) support the lived reality of all of us.

This series of blog postings will begin to focus on some deeper thinking about the concept of knowledges. It’s time that I shared some of my readings in what can loosely be described as the sociology of knowledge. As far as I can tell at the moment, the sociologists who specialize in that branch, refer to knowledge in the singular. Perhaps we can do something about that?

There is no better place to start than with Berger and Luckmann’s 1966 classic, The social construction of reality: A treatise in the sociology of knowledge. Apart from different imprints in different countries at around the same time, Berger and Luckmann do not seem to have produced a second edition, so it stands as one of the great publications on this topic. Their work can lead us in many directions…post-modernism, constructionism, the sociology of knowledge…and perhaps elsewhere. 

Berger and Luckmann were not the first to discuss this. That honour resides with the German writers of the 1920s, and the exploration of those will come much later. However, it’s probably true to say that the 1966 book helped to popularize the theory that the taken-for-granted which guides how we journey through this world is actually a socially constructeed reality.  Here is one of my favourite quotes from Berger and Luckmann:

A social stock of knowledge is constituted, which is transmitted from generation to generation and which is available to the individual in everyday life. I live in the commonsense world of everyday life equipped with specific bodies of knowledge. What is more, I know that others share at least part of this knowledge and they know that I know this. My interaction with others in everyday life is, therefore, constantly affected by our common participation in the available social stock of knowledge (p.41).

Surely, if they were to write their book today, Berger and Luckmann would recognize the plurality of those “specific bodies of knowledge” and hence the multiplicity of our social stock of knowledges?

I’m hearing a lot about Knowledge Transfer at the moment.  It’s not a new concept, so perhaps it’s just that the people I’m associating with at present are talking about it.  One manifestation of it seems rooted in the business world under the broad umbrella of Knowledge Management. The Wikipedia definition seems to place it in that context: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Knowledge_transfer

My critique of this, of course, is that Knowledge Transfer suggests a one-way process. The definition in Wikipedia talks about moving one “packet” of information from one part of an entity to another, with the result that the recipient is affected in some way. 

But what about reciprocity?  Surely, the sender of the packet is also affected, or perhaps should be affected. And wouldn’t it be beneficial if the recipient could return the favour and send something back? What about the synergy that results from a synchronous exchange, rather than a one-at-a-time sequence of sending and receiving?

I will certainly investigate Knowledge Transfer more. For example, the Wikipedia list of barriers to Knowledge Transfer applies also to Knowledges Exchange.  Challenges such as “problems with sharing beliefs, assumptions, heuristics and cultural norms” could certainly inhibit an exchange of knowledges, just as it does the transfer of information, and every other form of communication.  Without digging into it more deeply though, my hypothesis is that Knowledges Exchange is a more evolved concept that Knowledge Transfer. I just have to prove that.