22 SES 06 C, Academic Work and Professional Development
Sociology of Education has underlined that knowledge is not imposed; it is a network of intense conflicts, negotiations, attempts at rebuilding hegemonies by incorporating less ‘powerful’ knowledges (Apple, 2000; Bennett, 1986; Young, 2009, Muller, 2009). However, in these discussions the issue of authority in the epistemic construction of researchers’ knowledge gets very little attention.
The aim of this study is to explore the epistemic authority of scientific research as perceived by researchers and professors of higher education institutions and how that authority affects researcher’s knowledge and professional identities. The study includes two principal questions: 1) what is epistemic authority in higher education; 2) what is the relational justification for the choice of the epistemic authority (Raviv, Raviv, Bar-Tal & Peleg, 1990), ie., what network factors of researchers’ knowledge networks shape the epistemic authority in their work?
The conceptual framework is based on the concept of funds of knowledge as developed by Estela Bensimon (2009) and on the theory of epistemic authority by Linda Zagzebski (2012). The concept of funds of knowledge comprise all those skills and knowledge that individuals have acquired through their involvement in many activities, such as labor markets and diverse social interactions. Second, individuals have access to these funds of knowledge by engaging in activities and by observing how members within their communities interact with members of other communities.
In higher education, Bensimon (2007) drew attention to “a lack of scholarly and practical attention toward understanding how the practitioner—her knowledge, beliefs, experiences, education, sense of self-efficacy, etc.—affects how students experience their education” (p. 444). The author highlighted the role that funds of knowledge play in helping faculty to see students and families in terms of possibilities. Yet, we know very little about the funds of knowledge that shape researchers’ knowledge as most approaches since the 80’s, depicted from the social constructionist and poststructuralist theories, have emphasized the centrality of difference and the recognition of diversity especially linked to political agency and power struggles.
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