Thursday, September 4, 2014

Knowledge Building, Knowledge Of in Contrast to Knowledge About

Feet at School (M.A. Reilly, 2009)
Something to think about from:

Scardamalia, M., & Bereiter, C. (2006). Knowledge building: Theory, pedagogy, and
technology. In K. Sawyer (Ed.), Cambridge Handbook of the Learning Sciences (pp. 97-118).
New York: Cambridge University Press.

(1). Knowledge building pedagogy is based on the premise that authentic creative knowledge work can take place in school classrooms—knowledge work that does not merely emulate the work of mature scholars or designers but that substantively advances the state of knowledge in the classroom community and situates it within the larger societal knowledge building effort. This is a radically different vision from contemporary educational practice, which is so intensely focused on the individual student that the notion of a state of knowledge that is not a mental state or an aggregate of mental states seems to make no sense. Yet in knowledge creating organizations it makes obvious sense. People are not honored for what is in their minds but for the contributions they make to  the organization’s or the community’s knowledge. 

(2). Since the 1970s, cognitive scientists largely focus on two broad types of knowledge, declarative and procedural (Anderson, 1980). This distinction now pervades the cognitive literature as well as educational psychology textbooks that take a cognitive slant. The declarative-procedural distinction has proven useful in rule-based computer modeling of cognitive processes, but its application to education and knowledge creation is questionable (Bereiter, 2002, ch. 5). From a pragmatic standpoint, a more useful distinction is between knowledge about and knowledge of something. Knowledge about sky-diving, for instance, would consist of all the declarative knowledge you can retrieve when prompted to state what you know about sky-diving. Such knowledge could be conveniently and adequately represented in a concept net. Knowledge of sky-diving, however, implies an ability to do or to participate in the activity of sky-diving. It consists of both procedural knowledge (e.g, knowing how to open a parachute and guide its descent) and declarative knowledge that would be drawn on when engaged in the activity of sky-diving (e.g., knowledge of equipment characteristics and maintenance requirements, rules of particular events). It entails not only knowledge that can be explicitly stated or demonstrated, but also implicit or intuitive knowledge that is not manifested directly but must be inferred (see Bransford et al., this volume). Knowledge of is activated when a need for it is encountered in action. Whereas knowledge about is approximately equivalent to declarative knowledge, knowledge of is a much richer concept than procedural knowledge. 
Knowledge about dominates traditional educational practice. It is the stuff of textbooks, curriculum guidelines, subject-matter tests, and typical school “projects” and “research” papers. Knowledge of, by contrast, suffers massive neglect. There is instruction in skills (procedural knowledge), but it is not integrated with understanding in a way that would justify saying “Alexa has a deep knowledge of arithmetic”—or chemistry or the stock market or anything else. Knowledge about is not entirely useless, but its usefulness is limited to situations in which knowledge about something has value independently of skill and understanding. Such situations are largely limited to social small talk, trivia games, quiz shows, and—the one biggy—test taking.

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