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Created on: August 15, 2004

Areas of disagreement among educational theorists (from education, philosophy of)

Differing conceptions of education

Areas of disagreement among educational theorists

Conceptions of what constitutes knowledge

Although there is wide agreement that the assimilation of knowledge by the learner is a principal goal of education, this agreement is more apparent than real, because there is much disagreement about what constitutes knowledge.

Clearly, if one person identifies knowledge with information, his pedagogic approach is likely to differ from that of one who identifies knowledge with a process of thinking.

Some philosophers have attempted to clarify a distinction between “knowing that” (something is true or false) and “knowing how” (to do or learn to discover something).

The former emphasis is common in educational programs that focus on the product—that is, on the information that the learner has amassed and can reproduce at the end of his program.

The latter emphasis is common in programs that focus on the process—that is,on the skills and attitudes that the learner has adopted that enable him to learn more.

Conceptions of how knowledge should be communicated

Throughout history, the commonest way for knowledge to be communicated has been through what can be loosely called apprenticeship.

The one who does not know(the apprentice) watches the one who does (the master); he imitates the master, probably fails, watches again, tries again, and so on until he knows what the master knows.

This is primarily the way young people learn role identity, for example—what it means to be a husband or wife, a father or mother, a male or female.

It is not an effective method for stimulating the growth of new knowledge.

A second method, one that has been time-honoured in institutions of formal schooling, is telling.

The one who knows (the teacher) tells the one who does not (the student).

The student listens, tries to remember, and is usually required to reproduce his memorizations at some stage so that the teacher can judge whether or not the knowledge has been assimilated.

This method is a much less effective way of communicating knowledge than would be guessed from its prevalence as an educational practice.

Other methods try to remove the difficulties of human relationships from the act of communication by removing one party from the scene. For example, the apprentice can watch the master on film or videotape. Or the teacher can write his lectures in a book, which the student can then read.

Another method is that of the dialogue. Unlike the previous methods, which imply superiority–inferiority relationships, this method implies equality between the members of the dialogue. All may at different moments be teachers or learners. The method assumes that all have some knowledge to give and that all need tol earn.


End Notes

  1. "Areas of disagreement among educational theorists (from education, philosophy of)." Encyclop¾dia Britannica from Encyclop¾dia Britannica 2004 Ultimate Reference Suite DVD. Copyright © 1994-2003 Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. August 15, 2004.


“The greatest danger in times of turbulence is not turbulence; it is to act with yesterday’s logic”. — Peter Drucker

The shift from manual workers who do as they are being told — either by the task or by the boss — to knowledge workers who have to manage themselves ↓ profoundly challenges social structure

Managing Oneself is a REVOLUTION in human affairs.” … “It also requires an almost 180-degree change in the knowledge workers’ thoughts and actions from what most of us—even of the younger generation—still take for granted as the way to think and the way to act.” …

… “Managing Oneself is based on the very opposite realities: Workers are likely to outlive organizations (and therefore, employers can’t be depended on for designing your life), and the knowledge worker has mobility.” ← in a context




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