Last week our Specialised Learning Leader team had a Planning Day together, gathering momentum on how learning design will occur in 2016. A big focus of this day was how things will look/act/be different for the Qualifications years (Yr 11 & 12) as compared to our Foundation curriculum (Yr 9 & 10). The part that has really stuck with me over the next few days though was a discussion on what our Theories of Knowledge are at Hobsonville Point Secondary School.
As the main influence on our Learning Design at HPSS is the New Zealand Curriculum, my initial response was to start thinking what the theory of knowledge behind the NZC is. Quickly finding myself out of my depth to extract this information, I turned to some more learned colleagues asking them questions by various forms of messages.
The reason for my confusion became clear pretty quickly. There is a range of theories of knowledge present in the NZC. Any situation where a large group of people from different learning areas and different educational philosophies have produced a document, it will be based upon a range of theories. This is important as well, it could be quite dangerous for a national curriculum to state that one theory of knowledge is correct. As curriculum documents are a form of political statement, they do need to balance these competing views.
But this does leave schools in the position where we are balancing conflicting theories of knowledge. How do you simultaneously teach from theories of knowledge such as Empiricism and Knowledge as a Verb? This started to raise more questions for me:
- Are different Learning Areas more naturally aligned with certain theories of knowledge or is internal conflict between theories regularly occurring within disciplines?
- Is it useful/does it matter, for schools to understand what their theories of knowledge even are?
- We already have a strong belief in how learners should construct their understanding – is this enough?
Even the (very learned) colleagues I approached had questions around this:
How deep do you need to get into your own understanding of theories of knowledge in order to be confident that you know what are you talking about and can confidently design (and iterate) from that understanding?
Which is more important for us: The extent to which “conceptual progression” occurs in specific areas or whether developing more generic intellectual capacities?
I see myself as a practitioner who enjoys academic provocations, yet this was quickly turning into a spiral of brain-hurty questions.
The next question set me off into another whirl:
Which matters more – the knowledge as a thing in itself, or the way learners construct their understanding of it?
Now this, this is really the crux of it for me at the moment.
Can we accept that different Learning Areas will have biases towards different theories of knowledge, and instead focus our energies on ensuring we are constructing our understanding in a manner that meets our School’s vision for learning? But does the way you say understanding is constructed not say something about the way you view knowledge as a thing itself?
Welcome to my spiral of brain hurt!
This is something that our team is going to investigate in depth over the rest of this year, so I would appreciate some thoughts from those of you who read this. Any and all thoughts and/or recommendations for further investigation would be much appreciated:
- Do you know of any schools that have had in-depth staff discussions around their Theories of Knowledge?
- How was it approached?
- Can you recommend some readings/videos etc to provoke our thoughts around this?
- Or, do you have some thoughts that show we could be wasting time/energy/brainpower/PD resources?
I really believe there is power in better understanding the philosophical/theoretical underpinnings of our pedagogical practices. But how to get there? For now I’m wallowing in my messy, spiral of thoughts, hoping a path becomes clearer. Hopefully someone or something prompts that move forward soon!