Realist approaches in educational sociology, which have emerged in recent years such as the school of ‘social realism’, claims that knowledge has been backgrounded as an object in educational research in advance of an increased emphasis on ways of learning and knowing (Maton 2013) (Moore 2010). As one of the causes social realists point to the influence of constructivism, which views knowledge as mental processes and states of consciousness, that reside within the learner. Consequently, knowledge becomes sidelined and is not seen as something in itself. As Maton puts it: “The notion of knowledge as something emerging form, but irreducible to how individuals know, is ostensibly obscured” (Maton 2013). Social realism is therefore critical to this trend and asserts that constructivism has dominated educational thinking over the past decades, so that knowledge has become a missing dimension in education.
The influence of post-modernistic thinking is also criticized by social realists for reducing knowledge to merely a reflection of power and, as such, considering the form taken by knowledge as arbitrary. Thus social realism claims that postmodernist research is more concerned with power relations attached to knowing, and whose interests is served or neglected. In short, the nature of what has been taught and learned have for too long been considered of little relevance. This problem is by Maton termed ”knowledge blindness” and the mission for social realism is to recover knowledge in educational research.
As we will argue in this paper, ”knowledge blindness” has occurred in Danish Professional Higher Education and even extended over years. More precisely, the curriculum processes, by which lecturers consider, select and prepare different forms of knowledge for pedagogic communication, have “moved” to areas that are marginal compared to former authoritative curriculum processes. Thus, we prefer the term ”knowledge displacements” for these movements. Though this term may seem provoking, we do not indicate that students’ learning outcome is significantly impaired. What we suggest is that the knowledge base, to which pedagogic communication should refer, may have become more arbitrary and obscured.
The aim of this paper is to discuss the impact of ”knowledge displacement” in curriculum development within Danish Professional Higher Education by introducing some empirical works of curriculum studies. We phrase our research question as below:
What characterizes ”knowledge displacements” in Danish Professional Higher Education over the past decades, and what are the implications for the processes of selecting and preparing pedagogical content knowledge?
For this purpose, we present two curriculum analyses , one completed and one currently in progress.
We have based our main theoretical and conceptual framework on the Legitimation Code Theory (LCT), which is developed by Maton from a social realist approach. It brings together some of Bourdieu’s and Bernstein’s thoughts in a new conceptual framework in terms of code theories. In our analysis, ‘specialization codes’ (and ‘semantic codes’) plays a significant role in conceptualizing how curriculum gradually downplays knowledge as an object in advance of knower attributes expressed in competence terms.
In a social realist perspective, knowledge can be viewed as an object in such a way that a distinction between epistemic relations and social relations to knowledge can be made. Crossing these two structuring principles as continua maps out various code modalities (such as ‘knowledge code’, ‘knower code’, ‘elite code’ and ‘relativist code’). Changes in how curriculum subjects are classified and framed over time can thus be traced and expressed as code changes.
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