Knowledge is a journey

In Education

In his book The Good Teacher, Professor Alex Moore explores the importance of reflection and reflexivity in good teaching practice. Moore divides teachers into those who place emphasis on being vs those who focus on becoming.

In his view – applied to the teaching profession – being is static and finite, whereas becoming is fluid, infinite and ever-developing. I like to think of being as the end of a journey and of becoming as the journey itself.

Whilst Professor Moore’s remarks were made in the context of describing the dominant discourses within teaching, it struck me that our education system as a whole generally places a huge emphasis on being, promoting an old-fashioned concept of knowledge, that is to say: knowing static and finite facts, rather than on becoming.

Tests, examinations and certifications subconsciously encourage us to be satisfied with what we know and discourage many of us from continuing the journey. We all have had pupils who have asked Do I need to know that? or Will that be in the exam?

David Weinberger, in an article in the New Scientist titled Why untidiness is good for us, picks up on how the web is challenging traditional concepts of knowledge. Weinberger claims that a scalable, hyper-linked knowledge “is fast reshaping itself around its new networked medium” and becoming “truer to the spirit of enquiry”, a spirit that cherishes the end of every journey as the start of a new one.

The new “networked medium”, i.e. the web, thus redefines knowledge as a journey, an infinite progression and an unfinishing as well as unfinishable process. This is the notion we need to cultivate in ourselves and in our students: what to know is second in importance to how to know.

Is this a good thing? “In the internet age [this] is what knowledge looks like, and it is something to regret for a moment, but then embrace and celebrate” asserts Weinberger. Hear, hear.

Thanks to Paul Lowry for his excellent photograph.

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