Knowledge repertoires: Towards New Learning

Another way of getting to know more than can be gleaned from everyday immersion in lifeworld experience is to build a repertoire of different ‘knowledge processes’. These are the things you can do in order to gain deeper-than-ordinary knowledge. Building knowledge repertoires means to select, mix, match and test different knowledge-making approaches developed by the various kinds of committed knowledge. It also tempers the commitment to absolute truth often found in these approaches with a reasonableness and caution that comes with a measure of knowledge relativism.

What is this thing called ‘knowledge’? In commonsense understanding, personal knowledge is stuff in your head. It is information or things you remember. It also involves ‘understanding’, or the capacity to work things out for yourself on the basis of logic and the patterns that underlie information. This is how we often think of knowledge.

Knowledge, however, is a lot more than just what’s in your head, what you can remember and reason about. Your head is at one with your body, and your body is a thing in and of the physical world. Your only mental experience is in your body, and your body is a part of the world of physical existence. Your mind’s thinking is connected to the body’s feeling, and these feelings are extensions of the body into the sensuous world – the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of our everyday experience. Our whole bodies, not our minds alone, are gripped by emotion – happiness, sadness, love, hatred, fear, anger, surprise or curiosity – and these emotions are part of our deeply ingrained knowing processes (Damasio 2010). The mind cannot mean anything, either to others or to itself, without the body and its connections with the sensuous world: linguistic, visual, audio, gestural, tactile and spatial. In this sense, knowing is not just what you think. It is what you do and how you are.

Knowing is a set of capabilities, not just a set of mental capacities. It is a set of mental capacities that exist only in order to do things in the world – to hammer a nail or build a bridge, to cook a meal or travel to the moon, to solve a small problem or imagine a better future. Mental capacity is one part of the equation, but mental capacity is empty and meaningless without the capacity to do something with it. In this sense, knowing is not just what you can think. It is also what you can do and who you can be.

Knowing is also social, even though the physical bounds of the thinking brain might lead us to believe that it is an individual phenomenon. It is what you do as a result of what you have learned from people with whom you live. People have been doing things around you from the moment you were born. These social relationships you have not simply observed, you have also taken part in them. From the moment we are born, we find ourselves participating in a meaning-drenched social legacy: linguistic (a language that helps us make sense of the world), visual (the imagery of our surroundings and our culture), audio (from alerts to music that evokes emotion), gestural (bodily meanings), tactile (sensations of touch, smell and taste) and spatial (bodily positions, such as teacher in relation to learner or shopkeeper and customer, and architecturally shaped meanings). We spend our lives making and remaking this social world. Our knowledge is learned and made in relation to others. In this sense, our knowing is not just what we do by ourselves; it is also what we are and do together.

So, if knowing is a kind of action that can be this ordinary, how might we distinguish everyday knowing from deeper knowing? We call the capability of deeper knowing ‘knowledge-ability’ and we refer to the product of that capability as being ‘knowledgeable’. Knowledge-ability is the specialised work and extra effort you put into knowing something. It entails a peculiar intensity of focus and specific knowledge-making techniques. As a consequence, others are able to trust that you are knowledgeable, and you are better able to trust your own knowledge. In practice, each of us cannot be knowledgeable about everything. We can trust our knowledge in some areas, but we rely on the deeper knowledge of our fellow humans in other areas – experienced engineers, or doctors, or teachers, or mothers, or hikers, for instance. Not only do we rely on these others because they have become knowledgeable. We also respect their knowledge-ability and the special efforts they have made to become knowledgeable.

See Socrates’ Defence.

‘Science’ is a word that is often used to describe focused and deeper-than-everyday knowledge-ability. The roots of the word are in the Latin verb sciens, or ‘knowing’. In modern English, the meaning of the word has narrowed, at its narrowest referring to the study of the natural world using a disinterested, empirical method of careful observation in order to determine ‘the facts’ (Chalmers 1976). There are some social sciences, too, such as sociology and political science, so named because they often use techniques of empirical observation similar to those of the natural sciences. In this narrow English language definition, philosophy and the study of literature are not sciences; they are ‘humanities’. And where is education in this narrow understanding of the term ‘science’? The answer is ambiguous – halfway between the sciences and the humanities, perhaps.

We want to put the case for a broader understanding of science, one that is faithful to the Latin root and still to be found in many other languages, although not English. We want to talk about science as a certain kind of ‘knowing’. Specifically, we want to use it to name those deeper forms of knowing that are the purpose of education.

Science in this broader sense consists of things you do to know that are premeditated, things you set out to know in a carefully considered way. It involves out-of-the ordinary knowledge-making efforts that have a peculiar intensity of focus, rather than things you get to know as an incidental consequence of doing something or being somewhere. Science has special methods or techniques for knowing. These methods are connected with specialised traditions of knowledge making and bodies of knowledge. In these senses, history, language studies and mathematics are sciences, as are chemistry, physics and biology.

See Husserl on the Task of Science, in and of the Lifeworld.

Education is the science of learning (and, of course, teaching). Its subject is how people come to know. It teaches learners the methods for making knowledge that is, in our broad sense, scientific. It teaches what has been learned and can be learned using these methods. In this sense, education is privileged to be the science of sciences. As a discipline itself, the science of education develops knowledge about the processes of coming to know.

See Knowledge Repertoires, Case Studies.

Dimension 1: Ways of knowing

How, then, does one come to know? What is the range of knowledge-making actions that one could take to create out-of-the-ordinary knowledge? How does one develop deeper capacities for knowing that we have called ‘science’ in the broader sense?

We want to suggest four main types of engagement with knowing or knowledge processes. These are the kinds of things you can do to know. In one combination or another, these four form a knowledge repertoire, or a mix of things you do to know.

See Kalantzis and Cope, A Palette of Pedagogical Choices.

Figure 7.6: Knowledge processes, or the kinds of things you can do to know

Experiencing the known

We know from our lived experience. The lifeworld is a rich source of knowledge. Our experience of the known comes with a unique depth of feeling, duration of life experience, sense of intuitive truth, and confidence that we can trust our emotions and judgements. The lifeworld gives shape and meaning to our identities. It is a reference point for our deepest wishes and desires. It gives meaning to our most subjective urges.

The knowledge process of experiencing the known adds a layer of science, or deeper knowing, to everyday lived experience. It explicitly recognises the influences of the sources of the self on what we know and the ways in which we know it: material (class, locale and family), corporeal (age, race, sex and sexuality, and physical and mental characteristics) and symbolic (culture, language, gender, affinity and persona). It entails conscious, reflective work on the lifeworld in order to interrogate one’s perspectives, search for the sources of one’s identity, deconstruct one’s discourses and reflect on the nature of one’s thinking. It might also cause us to reflect on the ways our subjective interests can at times distort the way we see things and the knowledge we make. We might come to recognise the narrowness of our knowledge resulting from the limited range of our experience. Among the ways of knowing we have discussed earlier in this chapter, postmodernism predominantly uses this kind of knowledge process.

One danger of focusing too much on personal experience, however, is that you can become immersed in your perspective to the point where you don’t raise your- self far beyond your own lifeworld experience. A one-sided focus on experiencing the known also brings with it all the difficulties of knowledge relativism and cultural relativism. A ‘live and let live’ complacency and scepticism may emerge. Why put extra effort into knowledge making when all you can achieve is to reflect your own perspective or express your own interpretation?

Learners using this knowledge process are encouraged to bring their (invariably diverse) experiences, interests and knowledge into the learning environment. They reflect on the sources of their knowledge and the interests that motivate them. They reflect explicitly on what they know, and what they might need to do to extend their knowledge based on a recognition of its current limitations.

See They Knew Much More Than We Realised.

Experiencing the new

We come to know by experiencing new things in the world – new objects or previously unremarked aspects of known objects, new situations and new facts that seem true enough. Becoming familiar with things that were previously unfamiliar is one of the ways in which we learn in an always-changing lifeworld.

Empirical science systematises the process of exploring the unfamiliar and dis- covering the new. It aims to tell us more than we could normally learn from casual experience of something new. One example of empirical work is called ‘scientific method’ – drawn from a narrower understanding of the word ‘science’ as natural science. It is a prescription for knowledge action:

  1. Focus: Decide what you want to find out and the things you are going to look at in the natural or social worlds.
  2. Research: Find out what people have already seen who have looked in this place before.
  3. Hypothesise: Suggest what you think you might see if you look, and explain why you think this is worth looking for.
  4. Observe and/or Test: Now look hard. What can you see that you might not have seen at first glance; in other words, if you weren’t looking so intently? Or experiment: do something and watch what happens.
  5. Record: Your data could be quantitative, because you have counted or measured things. Or it could be qualitative, such as ethnographic data in which you join an unfamiliar social group and try as hard as you can to see the world the way they do; to speak, feel and think their world with them. The product is facts, as distinguishable from mere opinions or beliefs. Because you’ve done all that measuring and adding up, you can make conclusions about how the numbers stack up. Or because you’ve spent so much time in the other social setting tackling the question from this angle and then that, and hearing one person’s perspective then another’s, you can be pretty sure that your description of what you’ve seen is right.
  6. Analyse: Then analyse your data and draw conclusions. You might say something like: ‘We observed X a number of times, or carefully for a long time, or from a number of perspectives. Therefore we conclude that X must be generally true.’ This is inductive reasoning, or drawing conclusions in the form of a general rule based on specific facts.
  7. Corroborate: In case someone else doesn’t believe your conclusion, you explain in enough detail what you did to create your knowledge. If another person were to repeat the operation (actually, or in their mind’s eye) you would want them to be able to discover the same facts and come to the same conclusions. In your formal knowledge report, you need to explain what you observed and the way you observed it, how you recorded the facts, how you analysed the data and the reasoning you applied to come to your conclusions. That way, you’re not just expecting others to trust your judgement. You also are telling the world that they can verify your conclusions for themselves if they are sceptical. If they looked at things the same way you have, they should be able to find the same facts you found. The facts will speak for themselves.

Empirical method has its critics. In fact, its critics sometimes label it an ‘ism’ – the ideology of ‘empiricism’ that pretends to be disinterested and objective but often hides the subjective interests of the knowledge maker. The facts don’t necessarily speak for themselves, these critics point out, or at least not so clearly and unambiguously. The facts are not neutral. Rather, they are often the answers to the leading question you happen to have asked. You only end up seeing things that you have been looking for. The facts are a creature of your methods of observation. Nuclear scientists tend to think nuclear power is safe. Anti-nuclear activists tend to think that it is not. Each has lots of ‘facts’ to prove their case. Scientific method looks disinterested, detached and objective. This is the impression that empiricism tries to create. It helps give an aura of authority to natural science and scientists. The scientist tries to convey the impression that their science is true, and does this by trying to persuade you that they have objectively proven their point. But can knowledge ever be removed from human interests and purposes? And why dismiss other ways of knowledge making as though they were less truthful?

Nevertheless, the extra effort entailed in empirical work, such as the ‘scientific method’, is often worth the trouble. It gives us a particular kind of confidence in our new knowledge. When they use this knowledge process as a part of their knowledge repertoire, learners will observe, interact with new factual information, and experience new things. They might not always engage in a fully-fledged version of the scientific method. In fact, they might simply immerse themselves in new facts or a new situation. If their teaching is didactic, they might just be given facts that other people have already discovered. If it is authentic, they might be asked to experiment, observe and draw their own conclusions. In both cases, the epistemological presuppositions might be called empirical in a good sense, or empiricist for their narrowness. Transformative education suggests a broader knowledge repertoire in which empirical work is just one of a number of complementary things you can do to know.

Conceptualising by naming

In our everyday experience of the world, we name things, and by naming things we note similarities with other things, or draw distinctions. This is not that. (A volcano is not a plain.) This is an instance of that. (Volcanoes and plains are kinds of landform.) This is part of that. (Volcanoes and plains are parts of the natural landscape.) Young children, Vygotsky argues, think in complexes, whereby they connect volcanoes and plains because they are associated in everyday life. As they get older, they move into a stage of thinking and use language in such a way that ‘landforms’ and ‘landscapes’ become abstract concepts (Vygotsky 1978).

In the everyday experience of language in the lifeworld, there is much ambiguity to words and blurred edges between concepts. Some of the time, we only really know what a person is talking about in context, or because of our shared experience of the same situation.

Scientific conceptualising by naming makes distinctions that are clearer and less ambiguous than is often the case in the everyday lifeworld or the meanings expressed in natural language. It creates higher levels of semantic precision and predictability of meaning. It makes clear distinctions (what’s in a category and what’s not; what the category consists of and what it is itself a part of). It creates explicit definitions for the purpose of a particular knowledge-making activity, abstracting meaning to identify the underlying functions of a concept so the precise extent of its applicability can be specified.

In this spirit, school is full of concepts: volcanoes, atoms, nouns, prime numbers, revolutions, rhymes and quadrilaterals. These are not just the stuff of content knowledge and disciplinary frameworks. They are also a way of thinking, a knowledge process.

The danger in such categorical work, its critics point out, is to become too rigid about classifications and too abstract about meanings. It becomes too dogmatic when it requires either/or classifications for the sake of conceptual clarity. Sometimes the drive to neat classification oversimplifies things. At other times the ambiguity is important, itself perceptive or revealing.

Notwithstanding these dangers, in conceptualising by naming, learners clarify, classify, group and distinguish – all essential parts of a knowledge-making activity. This is not just a matter of learning the meaning of words. It is a kind of action. Didactic teaching would have that we learn the names and definitions of concepts. Conceptualising by naming, however, is a thing you do to know for yourself, and not just a dull list of labels you have to learn.

Conceptualising with theory

In our lifeworld experience, language puts concepts together into chunks of meaning. Putting concepts together is something we do all the time. However, we do more of this in the intense knowledge making we call science. We also do more of it in school.

Here is the theory of landforms: ‘A landform is a physical characteristic of the landscape characterised by elevation, slope, orientation and rock and soil types. Landforms can be identified by their topography. Mountains, plains and shores are examples of landforms.’ Of course, in the everyday discourse of the lifeworld we would never say something so stilted. We just drive along the plain, past the mountain. However, by putting concepts together like this, theories help us organise our experience in a way that is more explicit and understandable to strangers and learners who may not have encountered a particular phenomenon. Theories help us clearly describe patterns in the world.

Theory is a particular way of thinking and speaking, peculiar to the out-of-the-ordinary knowledge making that is science. Rarely in everyday experience do we even need to state the theory of landforms, or at least not quite this abstractly. The theory is implicit in our experience of driving and looking out the window of the car. We would only need to use the theory if we were wanting to build a new road, or explain some aspect of local climate dynamics. Scientific theories make the implicit explicit. They turn experience into useful generalisations that can be applied broadly and helpfully to new situations. They require a kind of thinking that helps us infer, predict and evaluate. When developing scientific theories, we put extra effort into making our thinking particularly clear and well organised. We also have a greater need to understand, make and apply theories when we are the creators of things rather than just users. People designing a road need a different kind of knowledge from someone who happens to be driving past a mountain as an incidental aspect of their lifeworld experience.

Science builds theories in order to explain phenomena that are not immediately obvious. Patients feel sick, but doctors have theories about what could be wrong and what can be done about it. Travellers cross bridges, but engineers have theories that explain how to make bridges so they stay up. Learners learn, but teachers have theories of how learning happens.

Theories piece together concepts into mental models or schemas. Theories not only help us identify underlying patterns and intrinsic structures. They also help us draw conclusions based on conceptual distinctions and categorical groupings. They help us figure out and explain what the patterns mean.

Theories, in turn, come together into larger interpretative frameworks called paradigms. The paradigm of Western medicine is different from the paradigm of Chinese medicine. The paradigm of didactic teaching is different from the paradigm of transformative education.

The danger of excessive reliance on conceptualising with theory, the critics of this knowledge process argue, is that we might allow our schemas to get ahead of experience. We may become overly abstract. Students may sense very theoretical learning as ‘too hard’, or ‘not relevant’ or just plain ‘boring’. Theories may also be presented to us as is if they represent taken-for-granted truths when, in fact, they might be open to challenge. Theories always need to be left open to testing and possible disproof, not to be simply accepted as though by act of faith.

Using the knowledge process of conceptualising with theory, learners in an environment of didactic education will be presented with canonical theories – the periodic table, or traditional grammar or the causes of the French Revolution – which they need to memorise in order to show they have learned specified slices of a discipline in their end-of-course tests. Authentic education will get learners to internalise the underlying meaning of theories or understand a theory by replication of an experiment or working through a proof. It will ask them to take apart and put back together the concepts that are used by a discipline. Transformative education asks learners to be active theory makers. Part of this theory making may have students figuring out canonical theories for themselves; for instance, working out how canonical science has come to a particular conclusion in order to understand its underlying logic. Transformative education also encourages learners to make theories that are their own, particularly as they consider their own lifeworld experiences, as they critically reflect on the knowledge they encounter, and as they apply that knowledge to real-world situations.

Analysing functionally

In our everyday lifeworlds, we continually find ourselves using reason, applying logic, figuring out cause and effect, deducing, inferring and predicting. The map tells us to turn right just up the road in order to visit the volcano. We expect we will have to drive up a hill. We find we are working with a background or implicit theory of the terrain of the plains and mountains. It’s just that we don’t do the theory as deliberately and systematically as we do when we perform the knowledge process of analysing functionally. We arrive at the top of the hill, come to a viewing place where the sign explains to us how the volcano came to be the shape it is. Now we’re talking science, analysing functionally.

Science uses frames of reasoning based on the analytical tools of logic, inference and prediction. Deductive reasoning may, for instance, take the form of what is called a syllogism: If X is generally true, and Y is an instance of X, then Y must be true. The fact of X (the premise) is assumed to be true and the knowledge-making work of this knowledge process is focused on the rational deduction from this premise.

The critics of this knowledge process label its unbalanced excesses ‘rationalism’ when it applies arid, mechanical, disengaged, formal logic, whose premises are not questioned. They call it ‘rationalisation’ when it provides a specious rationale for something whose premises cannot be justified. The occupational hazard of functionalist thinking is to develop systems of formal reasoning disengaged from human and natural consequences. There may be technical control but without adequate ethical reflection. There is a focus on the means for achieving certain ends at the expense of reflection on the value of the ends. The result is a narrow functionalism.

Using this knowledge process in a balanced knowledge repertoire, however, learners will systematically explore causes and effect and develop careful chains of reasoning that are closely connected with other knowledge processes.

Analysing critically

Sometimes it is not hard to suspect that what you are being told may be slanted to serve the interests of the teller. Or that what you think you see at first glance may prove to be an illusion. Critical instincts such as these are embedded in our most ordinary lifeworld experiences.

Science turns these instincts into a method – ways of reading the world through the always-cautious eye of critical analysis. We need to interrogate the interests, motives and ethics that may motivate knowledge claims. This is ‘critique’, an ever- vigilant process of reflection about purposes and interests. Rather than reacting with instinctive suspicion, the knowledge process of analysing critically involves a careful search for rival hypotheses and conclusions. What are the key cultural, theoretical and political factors underpinning a particular knowledge claim? What motivates the claim? Analysing critically brings a measure of knowledge relativism and cultural relativism to the interpretation of knowledge. Different kinds of people are motivated by different things. Different kinds of people are inclined to know the world in ways that produce knowledge that suits their perspective.

Critics of critique, however, sometimes accuse it of occasionally ungenerous fractiousness. It is as if the critic were inclined to debunk for debunking’s sake, or just intolerant of other points of view. They may also accuse them of being a mere ‘arm- chair critic’, someone who is plenty willing to criticise but not so willing or able to take sufficient knowledge-making responsibility to come up with constructive alternatives.

Analysing critically is nevertheless a key knowledge process. Learners interrogate the interests behind an action or the motives for a particular claim. But analysing critically should not be left at that. It often requires that you do something in the world. It suggests that you might move into one of the applied knowledge processes in which the world is directly transformed. Critically review a presented fact or text or practice by all means. But surely your critical knowledge claim would be strengthened if it were part of a broader knowledge repertoire in which you also constructed an alternative of your own?

Applying appropriately

We intuitively know how to apply our knowledge because we do it in every waking hour. We apply what we know habitually.

Science also exists to be applied, but it is more focused and ordered in its processes of application. We mostly put in the extra effort that scientific knowing requires because we want to do something with that knowledge. The reason we put in this extra effort is to be sure that the application works and is useful. In the everyday lifeworld, by comparison, applications tend to be more hit and miss, and we allow for that when there is not too much at stake. Or they are predictable in their outcomes, so much so that the extra effort required in the more formal knowledge process of applying appropriately is redundant.

Science is more conscious, premeditated and systematic in its methods of application. Applying appropriately involves practical forms of understanding in a setting in which that knowledge has immediately and specifically been designed to get things done. This kind of knowledge process is pragmatic, designing and implementing practical solutions that achieve technical or instrumental outcomes.

The critics of this kind of knowledge making accuse it of narrow pragmatism and an uncritical stance whereby it often leaves purposes and outcomes unexamined. It might even border on unreflective opportunism – because it works, it must be all right. But just because the application works, is it right?

The value of this particular knowledge process is when it attempts to link other knowledge processes into practical applications. The theory of calculus makes more sense when we can see what we can do when we apply it in the world. The theory of poetry – what it is and its characteristic features – makes more sense when we use its forms to say something that means something to us. In a learning context, applying appropriately may involve learning by doing something in a predictable or to-be-expected way in a ‘real-world’ situation, or a situation that simulates the ‘real world’. Or it may involve transfer from theoretical understanding to a practical example of that theory in action. The learner’s subsequent knowledge can then be evaluated against the application itself. Does the knowledge work? Is it apt to the context of application? Is it a useful solution to a known and agreed problem?

Applying creatively

Whether we recognise it or not, we transform the world in every moment of our acting and meaning. No one else has ever done quite the same mix of things that we have done in our lives, or made quite the same contribution, or represented the world to others with quite the timbre of our voice or overtones of our experience. To innovate is in our natures. We take the objects and meanings of the world and invariably rearrange them in new ways. The innovations may be small, and we may hardly realise we are doing it, but innovating nevertheless we always are.

At its best, science is innovative in a premeditated, systematic and self-reflective way. Applying creatively is a knowledge process in which we attempt to make big leaps. We take knowledge from one context and apply it in a vastly different one. We try to solve big problems that hitherto seemed insurmountable. We attempt to come up with ingenious solutions to niggling little problems. We mix and match artistic or literary meanings in unusual, original and creative ways. We imagine new angles or perspectives. We take calculated but nevertheless significant risks. We imagine possibilities way beyond what currently seem realistic.

The critics of this knowledge process argue against its at times unrealistic over-confidence. They accuse its risk-taking as excessive. Its stubborn lack of pragmatism often leads to failure. Or it is forced to narrow its objectives.

As an aspect of a knowledge repertoire, however, applying creatively can engage learners in acts of imagination, risky but sometimes enlightening applications beyond their immediate comfort zones, strikingly original hybrid creativity, and transfer of their knowledge into distant sites of application. In so doing, applying creatively can engage learners in higher-order problem solving and to grasp a sense of how invention and innovation happen.

Figure 7.7: A repertoire of knowledge processes

Dimension 2: Ways of learning

The more focused kind of knowing that we have called ‘science’ consists of a number of different kinds of action that produce deeper, broader, more trustworthy, more insightful and more useful knowledge. We have to concentrate on our ways of knowing to achieve this greater depth. We have to work systematically and more imaginatively at it.

School teaches us how to work at our knowing. The science of education is the science of these deeper and more discerning ways of knowing and how they are acquired through learning. Learning is coming to know. Education is the science of how we come to know. Doing education as a discipline and as a profession, we come to know how we come to know.

Knowledge, we have argued, consists of a variety of forms of action. It is not simply a process of thinking, a matter of cognitive understanding. Rather, it is a series of performatives – actions as well as representations, deeds as well as thoughts, types of practice as well as forms of contemplation. The deeper and broader knowledge that is the object of study of the science of education consists of the kinds of things we do (knowledge-abilities) to create out-of-the-ordinary knowledge. Fazal Rizvi calls these ‘epistemic virtues’ (Rizvi 2015).

We have roughly grouped the things we can do to know into four-times-two categories. Other educators have grouped knowledge processes in somewhat different ways, though there are many parallels; for instance, in Bloom’s Taxonomy (L. W. Anderson and Krathwohl 2001) and Kolb’s Learning Cycle (Kolb 1984). These connections and parallels can be traced through ‘crosswalks’.

Less important than the grouping itself is the idea that more purposefully deploying a broader range of knowledge processes can produce more cogent knowledge than a narrower range. So, a careful empiricism in ‘experiencing the new’ is all the more powerful if tempered by the cautious eye to interests and agendas of ‘analysing critically’. ‘Applying appropriately’ or ‘applying creatively’ will be all the more powerful if they are founded on the clarity and coherence of ‘conceptualising with theory’. Science is more likely to be stronger if we use a balance of alternative knowledge moves or acts of knowing. Learning is likely to move the learner more powerfully if it involves an appropriate and balanced range of knowledge processes or activity types.

Figure 7.8: Crosswalk connecting the Learning by Design Knowledge Processes with Bloom’s Taxonomy

Figure 7.9: Crosswalk connecting the Learning by Design Knowledge Processes with Kolb’s Learning Cycle

When your knowing is more partial, good science is aware of its partiality and able to justify it. Mathematics may at times stay entirely within the knowledge processes of ‘conceptualising with theory’ and ‘analysing functionally’. This is because for some mathematical purposes there is no need to justify its activities in other terms. For instance, to learn a particular mathematical operation, there may be no need to critically interrogate human interests and purposes. A whole discipline, in fact, may prioritise some knowledge processes over others. This may be the source of its strength as often as it is a potential weakness.

Nor is there any need for a particular sequence or navigational path to scientific knowledge. Recipes for action, such as the empirical ‘scientific method’, may at times prove handy. But the different knowledge processes may also be tackled in any order, or even in a messy simultaneous way, whereby different orientations are combined in a particular knowledge-making activity. The most important thing is that learners make purposeful and appropriate knowledge-making choices according to their context, interests and needs.

The various modes of committed knowledge provide some hard-won paths to knowledge. There is much we can learn from these as we develop a broader knowledge repertoire, learning how to use a variety of tools for our knowledge-making work. Knowledge relativism teaches us not to be over-zealous about any single path to knowledge. It suggests that we should be aware of our perspectives. We should look out for the differences in meaning between ourselves and other people whose lifeworld experiences and premises about knowledge may be unlike ours. It suggests we should be careful, sensitive and tolerant of such differences. We should always be ready to concede that another perspective, or someone else’s more thorough knowledge work in a particular area, could challenge even our hardest won confidences.

So, what do we do in schools? Knowledge repertoires are open and more flexible while still being solidly grounded in a range of traditional practices in knowledge making. Some teachers, some learners, some schools, some cultures and some disciplines might prefer to emphasise some knowledge processes over others. Some might want to start with one knowledge process and end with another. However, a balanced approach to building a knowledge repertoire draws on the strengths of the two conceptions of knowledge in education today: knowledge grounded in facts, theories, texts and reason on the one hand; and the always-questioning stance of relativism and critical thinking on the other (Kalantzis and Cope 2010).

Figure 7.10: Aspects of a knowledge repertoire

Dimension 3: Sites of learning

Committed knowledge frameworks create special sites, institutions and roles for privileged forms of knowledge making. If we want to know more of what scientists, professionals or great writers knew, or even become one of these types of person by way of vocation, we would listen to the masters, revere their texts and respect their interlocutors.

Relativist knowledge frameworks deconstruct the knowledge pretensions of these privileged sites, and their institutional role. The relativists highlight the equally valid truth in the life experiences of groups denied access to privileged forms of knowledge. As a counterpoint, they remark upon a certain kind of truth born of identity and deep personal experience. And they admit the everyday cultural truths of the mass media and popular culture.

So, what of New Learning? We argued earlier in this book that a momentous shift is underway in the balance of agency at work, in citizenship and in the every- day lifeworlds of differentiated identities. So too, we are experiencing a shift in the balance of agency in the relationships of knowledge production. More people today are knowledge makers and not just knowledge consumers – in the workplace, in community life and in the world of the new media. Sources of credible knowledge are now far more diffused across sites, institutions and social roles. The credibility of knowledge is not based on formal location and status, or at least not on that alone. Rather, we come to trust the knowledge of others because of the hard work they have put into their knowledge making, and which we know they continue to put into that knowledge making.

The idea of a knowledge repertoire is the basis for a deepened and broadened conception of science. This is what we mean by the New Learning – the way you come to know. It is also the basis of a renewed science of education – knowing how you come to know. In the everyday practicalities of teaching, using a knowledge repertoire becomes a way of saying explicitly, ‘Now I am using this particular way to know, and now I am using that other way, and this is the reason I did this, then that.’ One reason for this approach is to be transparent about learning choices. It can also help us to be clear about the learning outcomes we intend. This helps us evaluate outcomes in order to work out what still has to be learned, or to make the knowledge processes stronger next time. This requires a new kind of teacher in a new kind of profession for a world where knowledge is made in more powerfully insightful ways, right across society. In this respect, a vibrant science education is pivotal to the creation of a ‘knowledge society’ worthy of the name.