Knowledge processes - Chapter 7: Knowledge and Learning

Looking for different ways of knowing

  • Look in the media and collect examples of stories that make different kinds of claims of the truth: empirical, reasoned, religious, etc. How are the parties to the story making claims that their knowledge is truer or deeper than casual or everyday knowledge in the lifeworld? Why is the story being told?
  • What do you know intuitively, that you have not had to be taught and that has not required any particular effort to come to know? What kinds of knowledge have you had to work harder at? Make a list of the two kinds of knowledge: the knowledge of your lifeworld and the knowledge you have acquired through more systematic processes of knowing and learning. What are the differences between the two kinds of knowledge?
  • Consider some knowledge you once felt certain about but about which you are now not so sure. What unsettled your original understanding? Could your understanding become settled again? How?

Exploring other ways of knowing

  • In Buddhism, what kind of knowledge and learning relationship is there between the Blessed One (the Buddha) and the monks? How might the noble eightfold path translate into a program of personal action today?
  • Study another committed religious or scientific way of knowing. What are its features? In what respects does this way of knowing regard itself as superior to others?

Concepts of knowledge

  • Make a glossary or wiki of the key concepts of knowledge. In each definition, connect the knowledge concept with an example of teaching and learning.

Knowledge principles

  • Develop a statement of principle about how you think the most reliable and trustworthy knowledge can be made.

Disentangling the ways of knowing

  • Take a controversial contemporary issue, such as abortion or the kinds of text that should be taught in English in school. Analyse and classify the views of ‘truth’ on both sides of this debate.
  • Find an example of a worldview that mixes different ways of knowing, such as ‘liberal’ Christian or Islamic religious views. What are the different views that are brought together? Is the alignment, in your view, successful?

Critique ways of knowing

  • From Locke’s empiricist position, what’s wrong with religion as a knowledge framework? From a religious position, what’s wrong with Locke’s empiricism? What are the different implications for how learning occurs, and the role of education?

see John Locke on Human Understanding.

  • Why was Matthew Arnold worried about the direction of civilisation? How does he think culture might be a solution? What does he understand culture to be? What should be the role of education, in his view? Do you think his suggestion could work?
  • Look at the work of scientists who have found opposing facts to support opposing views; for instance, on climate change. Compare and contrast both views. How can we sort this out within the scientific method or using empirical evidence? How is it also helpful to analyse critically the perspectives and interests of the scientists?
  • What is E.D. Hirsh’s view of how inequality can be addressed through education? Debate: will learning ‘core knowledge’ achieve this?
  • Take a controversial ethical position; for instance, on holy war or on the origins of life. Hold a debate between people holding committed and relativist knowledge positions.
  • Debate the proposition: that postmodernism and relativism is a sign of social and moral decay.

Knowledge at school (1)

  • Find some examples of bias in old or perhaps new school textbooks or tests. How does a stance of cultural relativism help you see bias?
  • Find examples of learning activities that illustrate each of the knowledge processes mentioned in this chapter.

Knowledge at school (2)

  • Study two different kinds of school, such as a religious school and a public school. Study their websites, prospectuses, etc. How are their presuppositions about the nature of true knowledge and learning similar and/or different?
  • Write a prospectus or develop a website for a hypothetical school, outlining your presuppositions about the nature of knowledge and learning.