27 SES 03 A, Powerful Knowledge across School Subjects
In discussing the question of what knowledge school students are entitled to have access to it is argued that ‘in all fields of enquiry, there is better knowledge, more reliable knowledge, knowledge nearer the truth about the world we live in and to what it is to be human’ (Young, 2013, p. 107). Furthermore, this knowledge is always fallible and open to challenge and the difficulty of holding these two ideas together is highlighted.
The concept of powerful knowledge is based on two key characteristics, which are both expressed in the form of boundaries. Firstly, this knowledge is specialized both in how it is produced and transmitted and this specialization is expressed in terms of the boundaries between disciplines and subjects which define their focus and objects of study. It is stressed that this is not general knowledge and that the boundaries are not fixed and unchangeable (Young 2013). It is also emphasized that cross-disciplinary research and learning depend on discipline-based knowledge. The second characteristic is that it is differentiated from the experiences that pupils bring to school or older learners bring to college or university. It is also stressed that this differentiation is expressed in the conceptual boundaries between school and everyday knowledge (Young 2013).
Young identifies two main traditions or approaches in recent debates about knowledge in educational sciences and philosophy. These traditions are extrapolated as trajectories into possible futures. In the first tradition, denoted Future 1, knowledge is, according to Young and Muller (2010), underpinned by an ‘under-socialized’ epistemology and defined as fixed sets of verifiable propositions or concepts that in teaching are evaluated through standardized testing. The second tradition, denoted Future 2, arose as a response to the first, and Young and Muller (2010) claim that the epistemology of knowledge is ‘over-socialized’ in that the character of knowledge is reduced to ‘who knows’ and the identification of knowers and their practices.
Both these approaches can be viewed as deficient according to Young (2015a, b). Future 1 has been shown to be unable to motivate and engage students with the body of knowledge to be learnt, and does not provide students with knowledge to tackle complex problems of society today (Young, 2015a, b). The alternative approach, Future 2, suggests integration of school subjects, promotion of generic skills and facilitative teaching that according to Young and Muller: “against their best intents, the main effects of Future 2-ists – those endorsing progressive pedagogy and its variants – are to render the contours of knowledge and learning invisible to the very learners that the pedagogy was designed to favour” (Young and Muller 2010, pp. 18-19).
As a response to these deficient ways of organizing and investigating curriculum, Young and Muller suggest a social realist theory that: “sees knowledge as involving sets of systematically related concepts and methods for their empirical exploration and the increasingly specialized and historically located ‘communities of enquirers’” (Young & Muller, 2010, p. 14). Young denotes this alternative approach as a Future 3 solution. Accordingly, the most important part of such a curriculum making and thus educational research is to identify what constitutes ‘powerful knowledge’ in different school subjects. The contributors to this symposium aim to address the following research questions as part of this enquiry:
- How can the nature of powerful knowledge in different school subjects be characterized?
- How can the transformation processes related to powerful knowledge be described?
- What are the barriers against and the conditions for transformation of powerful knowledge in different subjects?
Young, M. (2015a). Powerful knowledge as curriculum principle. In M. Young, D. Lambert, C.R. Roberts, and M.D. Roberts. Knowledge and the future school: Curriculum and social justice, pp. 65-88, 2nd edition. London, UK: Bloomsbury Academic. Young, M. (2015b). The progressive case for a subject-based curriculum. In M. Young, D. Lambert, C.R. Roberts, and M.D. Roberts. Knowledge and the future school: Curriculum and social justice, pp. 89-109, 2nd edition. London, UK: Bloomsbury Academic. Young, M. (2013) Overcoming the crisis in curriculum theory: a knowledge-based approach, Journal of Curriculum Studies, 45, 2, 101-118. Young, M., & Muller, J. (2010). Three educational scenarios for the future: Lessons from the sociology of knowledge, European Journal of Education, 45, 11–27.
00. Central Events (Keynotes, EERA-Panel, EERJ Round Table, Invited Sessions)
Network 1. Continuing Professional Development: Learning for Individuals, Leaders, and Organisations
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