Knowledge processes - Chapter 1: New Learning

The approach taken in this section of each chapter was developed as a part of our ‘Learning by Design’ project. It also a practical example of the approach to the New Learning we advocate in this book. The knowledge processes comprise different forms of knowledge-action, illustrated in Figure 1.4:

Figure 1.4: Knowledge processes

This is what each knowledge process means:

  • experiencing the known – reflecting on your own experiences, interests and perspectives
  • experiencing the new – observing the unfamiliar, immersing yourself in new situations, or reading and recording new facts and data
  • conceptualising by naming – developing categories and defining terms
    conceptualising with theory – making generalisations and putting the key terms together into conceptual frameworks
  • analysing functionally – reasoning about logical connections, cause and effect, structure and function
  • analysing critically – evaluating critically your own and other people’s perspectives, interests and motives
  • applying appropriately – applying insights to real-world situations and testing their validity
  • applying creatively – creating an original knowledge artefact or making an innovative intervention in the world.

Use of these knowledge processes turns knowledge making over to you, the learner. Labels such as these allow you to name what you are doing as a social scientist – in one moment, conducting investigations of the empirical world, in another developing a theoretical position, and in yet another creating knowledge through the process of its application. These knowledge processes are not linear. You can start where the particular learning situation and your own preferences suggest is most appropriate. You may prefer one approach to knowledge or learning style over another, in which case you may start there, or even spend a good deal of your time approaching the subject matter from this perspective, because that’s where you are most comfortable and where you feel your knowledge making is most effective. We would suggest, however, that a rounded view of an issue, and one where you have thoroughly made your own knowledge, will consist of a relatively balanced mix of these different knowledge processes.

Where is education heading?

• From your experience and current knowledge, what direction do you think education is taking today? Consider the dimensions discussed in this chapter:

  • dimension 1 – the social significance of education
  • dimension 2 – the institutional locations of learning
  • dimension 3 – the tools of learning
  • dimension 4 – the outcomes of learning
  • dimension 5 – the balance of agency
  • dimension 6 – the significance of learner differences
  • dimension 7 – the relation of the new to the old
  • dimension 8 – the professional role of the teacher.

A parent’s perspective

  • Interview a parent. What are their main concerns for their children’s destinies? What are their main worries? How do they think things could be different for children in the future? What things might be harder or easier or better or worse than it was for them? What role do they expect school to play?

Education facts

  • Look up the most recent data on education, in your country or internationally. What are the main trends and challenges for education?

Learning in traditional societies

  • Research the ways in which learning occurs in societies that do not have formal institutions of education or a written science of education. Take one such society and describe the learning process, report back to others on the society you have examined, and then debate: what are the differences in learning between traditional and modern societies?

Defining the knowledge society

  • ‘Knowledge society’, ‘new economy’, ‘knowledge economy’: who is using these terms? What do they mean? Why are they using them? How do they connect with ‘education’?

The art and science of education

  • Examine the dictionary definition of the term ‘science’. How useful and appropriate is the term as a description of teaching and learning? Collate everyone’s responses and reflect on what that tells you about our experiences and understanding of education and the kind of professional practice that teaching is, or might be. What is more important: the art of teaching or the science of education? How do the two connect?

Learning contrasted to education

  • What is the difference between learning and education? Develop a definition of the two terms, and a brief theoretical statement that differentiates the two concepts.
  • Create your own schema to contrast the features of older forms of education and the New Learning. This could take the form of a diagram, a table or a piece of prose.

Public and private schools analysed

  • Compare the prospectuses of two local schools: one public and one private. What are the differences in their messages? What do you interpret these differences to mean?

The politics of education

  • What are your politicians saying about education, and what do they mean? Locate the educational policy statements of politicians of different ideological persuasions. Compare and contrast the statements of politicians of opposing political persuasions.
  • Can education realistically achieve what politicians and their publics expect of it? Is it a good thing that they expect this? What can we, as educators, do?
  • Compare education and health policies and facilities where you live. What are the trends in resourcing and employment conditions in these two areas?

Using an education qualification

  • Make a list of the different things a teacher does in the course of doing their job.
  • How might you apply the knowledge and capacities you acquire from studying the science of education? Map alternative career paths, and the range of things you might do in your life, applying your education qualification.

What could the future bring?

  • Write a science fiction story: either about the school of a frightening future or a school of an ideal future. Once written, share your scenarios for the future, either in pairs or more widely among the group. What are the similarities and differences in expectation and vision?
  • Research a contemporary educational experiment; for instance, introducing new technologies in schools. How does this experiment anticipate a different educational future?